The New York Times 2024-07-09 20:10:41

Middle East Crisis: Israeli General Condemns Rising ‘Nationalist Crime’ by Settlers

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A departing Israeli military leader denounces Jewish settler violence in the West Bank.

Amid rising tensions between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and new moves by the Israeli government to expand its hold on the territory, an Israeli general on Monday issued a harsh rebuke of the government’s policies there and condemned rising “nationalist crime” by Jewish settlers.

Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuks, the outgoing chief of Israel’s Central Command, which is responsible for the country’s military forces in the West Bank, said at a departure ceremony that a “strong and functioning” Palestinian Authority was in Israel’s security interest.

The general’s statement appeared to be a swipe at Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who is himself a settler and who has been crippling the authority by withholding tax funds that Israel collects on its behalf in the roughly 40 percent of the West Bank that the authority administers.

General Fuks also expressed dismay over an increase in settler violence in the West Bank, which is home to about 2.7 million Palestinians and a Jewish settler population that has grown to well over 500,000. An extremist minority of violent settlers, he said, had been undermining Israel’s reputation internationally and sowing fear among Palestinians. “That, to me, is not Judaism,” he said. “At least not what I was raised on in my father’s and mother’s home. That is not the way of the Torah.”

Israel seized control of the West Bank from Jordan in 1967 during a war with three Arab states, and Israeli civilians have since settled there with both the tacit and explicit approval of the government, living under Israeli civil law while their Palestinian neighbors are subject to Israeli military law.

The international community largely views Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal, and many of them are illegal under Israeli law but are tolerated by the government. Many outposts that began as illegal under Israeli law have subsequently been legitimized by the government, and Palestinians have long argued that they are a creeping annexation that turns land needed for any independent Palestinian state into an unmanageable patchwork.

Last year, the United Nations reported that attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank had surged in the weeks following the Oct. 7 attacks that set off the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, with at least 115 killed, more than 2,000 injured and nearly 1,000 others forcibly displaced from their homes, citing violence and intimidation by Israeli forces and settlers.

General Fuks argued that terrifying the Palestinians living alongside Jews was “a dangerous mistake” and that the actions of violent Jewish settlers threatened Israel’s security.

But Mr. Smotrich has been vocal about wanting Israel to claim all of the West Bank. Last month, he struck a deal with ministers to release some money withheld from the Palestinian Authority in exchange for the legalization of five more Jewish outposts, and last week, the finance ministry released about $136 million.

Mr. Smotrich said in a post on social media that day that he was working with planning authorities on approving more than 5,000 additional housing units in the West Bank. “We’re building the good country and thwarting the creation of a Palestinian state,” he said.

Last month an Israeli ministry approved the largest seizure of West Bank land since the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, claiming about five square miles in the Jordan Valley, according to Peace Now, an Israeli group that monitors settler activity. Israel has seized roughly nine square miles of the territory this year, making 2024 by far the peak year for appropriations, Peace Now said.

While settlers and ministers are defiant, their activities are a source of tension for Israel with other nations, including its ally the United States, at a time when it is increasingly isolated in the world over its conduct of the war in Gaza.

“Settlements continue to be counterproductive to a two-state solution,” John Kirby, the national security spokesman for the White House, said in a briefing with reporters on Monday. “We don’t support that.”

Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.


U.S. officials travel to Cairo for cease-fire talks, and other news.

  • Two senior U.S. officials went to Cairo for talks about a cease-fire proposal between Israel and Hamas this week, a White House spokesman, John F. Kirby, said on Monday. While Israel and Hamas have both indicated that the latest proposal is stalled, with each side blaming the other, Mr. Kirby said, “We’re trying to close those gaps as best we can.” He said the Biden administration would not have sent Mr. Burns and Mr. McGurk to negotiate if it didn’t believe there was a chance of success. He played down Israel’s and Hamas’s public comments on the proposal, saying they “aren’t necessarily reflective of the conversations we’re having privately with them or their interlocutors.”

  • The Israeli military said that its troops were fighting Hamas militants in Shajaiye, a neighborhood in Gaza City that it has returned to repeatedly during the war. In a statement on Monday, the military said soldiers had raided and destroyed a Hamas “command and control center” in Shajaiye inside converted schools and a clinic, and said that it found weapons and Hamas intelligence documents alongside equipment and UNRWA school uniforms. UNRWA is the main U.N. aid agency helping Palestinians. More than half of UNRWA’s facilities in Gaza have been hit by Israeli forces during the war, Philippe Lazzarini, the UNRWA head, said in a post on social media on Sunday, calling for independent investigations into claims that the facilities were being used by militant groups.

‘Crown Jewels of the Jewish People’: Preserving Memories of the Holocaust

The pictures are haunting: black-and-white prints of a snow-covered barracks and paintings bordered by wire fences and skeletal trees, grim depictions of a World War II camp in France where Jews were interned before being transported to concentration camps.

The artist, Jacques Gotko, created one picture using a background of crushed eggshells glued to a wooden board; for others he used a piece of old tire as a printing block. Those were just some of the few materials available to him at the camp where he was held before being transported to Drancy, another camp in France, then Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Poland, in 1943.

Fragile and rarely displayed, these works are part of a massive repository of Holocaust-related artifacts — among them millions of pages of documents, tens of thousands of pages of testimony, artworks and personal belongings and more than half a million photographs — collected over the years by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

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NATO’s New Boss: Affable, Pragmatic and Ready for Trump, if Required

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Mark Rutte rode off into the sunset on his bicycle last week, making a carefully choreographed exit from Dutch politics, which he has dominated as prime minister for nearly 14 years. His next job will be even more challenging: He will be the new head of a NATO that is facing threats ranging from Russian aggression to the rise of right-wing nationalism across Europe.

Mr. Rutte, known as a flexible pragmatist, will bring his experience at conciliation to the 32-nation military alliance when he takes over as secretary general from Jens Stoltenberg on Oct. 1.

As it celebrates its 75th anniversary with a summit in Washington this week, NATO, which was founded to deter the former Soviet Union from further expansion in Europe, has found renewed purpose in its support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. Beyond that challenge, NATO faces a Russian government forging stronger ties with China and Iran, even as Beijing tries to dominate Asia and Tehran expands its nuclear program.

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With Keir Starmer, Britain and the U.S. Are Back in Sync, but for How Long?

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It was a carefully staged display of big-power theatrics — or more precisely, of middle-power-meets-big-power theatrics.

“You are now connected to Air Force One,” said a White House operator, as Prime Minister Keir Starmer of Britain hunched over a speakerphone, in a short video released on Saturday by 10 Downing Street.

“Mr. Prime Minister, congratulations,” said President Biden, who was flying to Wisconsin for a campaign rally. “What a hell of a victory!”

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