After a passionate debate and a filibuster by opposition members of Knesset, the new amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law passed 30 to 15 early Tuesday morning. The new amendment, hurriedly drafted and passed by the governing coalition, will replace the 2012 amendment to the law, which was nixed by the High Court of Justice three months ago.
The previous amendment to the law permitted the detention of asylum seekers without trial for a three-year period in Israel’s Saharonim and Ktziot prisons. Under the new amendment, asylum seekers will be jailed for one year in the prisons, followed by additional indefinite detention in a specially constructed internment camp operated by the Israeli Prison Service.
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Since the beginning of 2013, Assad’s forces have laid siege on the suburbs of the capital known as Ghouta, which was the target of a chemical weapons attack earlier this summer. Regime forces are stopping food and other goods from coming in and as winter approaches, activists are warning that the situation is about to get even worse.
The chemical weapons attack on the eastern and southern outskirts of Damascus (collectively known as Ghouta) have garnered a great deal of international attention over the past month. While pundits and experts discussed the imminent American-led strike on regime targets and later how to disarm the Assad regime of its chemical weapon stockpiles, however, few focused on the situation on the ground in the areas affected by the chemical attack itself (which are targets of daily artillery attacks and air strikes by the regime). These areas have been besieged by the regime forces since January 2013, leading to severe shortages of food, medicine and fuel that have resulted in the death of at least eight malnourished children and many patients who could have been saved had proper medical treatment been available to them.
Ghouta has been an opposition stronghold since the first days of the Syrian uprising. Many of the residents of Ghouta’s conservative Sunni working-class towns were displaced from southern and eastern Syria due to long years of drought and the government’s mismanagement of the drought crisis. During the initial, peaceful stage of the Syrian uprising, Ghouta witnessed large protests. Soon after the opposition began to arm itself in 2011, the towns of Ghouta were wrestled from regime control in 2012 and are now in the hands of the rebels. Civil society organizations sprung up to fill the void created by the government’s absence in the area.
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A protest organized by three groups affiliated with the Israeli social justice movement (#j14) was held in Jerusalem on Saturday night (June 8). The protesters demanded a reversal of the decision to export most of Israel’s natural gas reserves with only 12.5% of the value of the gas going to the State in taxes. The protesters also voiced objections against the budget of the new government, which is expected to significantly raise taxes on Israel’s lower and middle-class, while at the same time cutting government services on which those classes rely. The protest, despite being peaceful and rather small (a few hundreds of protesters) was met with an unusually high level of random police brutality.
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This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.
Elderly man checks the headlines in Tel Aviv, Israel – 2005. Photo by Shachar Abiry שחר אבירי on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Israeli media has undergone significant changes over the past few years. Growing economic strains have increased competition between media outlets fighting for a share of advertising revenue. However, because the market that media outlets operate in is relatively small many are experiencing serious financial problems. This includes the daily newspaper Maariv, which was recently sold to a right-wing publisher. As a result, many of the newspaper’s workers are expected to lose their job. A similar fate may fall upon employees at Channel 10 and the only left-leaning Israeli daily, Haaretz, which are also incurring heavy losses.
Financial troubles have the potential, therefore, to decrease the independence of reporters, who may be less willing to challenge the wishes of their editors or managers who are, in turn, accountable to the owners of media outlets.
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In a new episode of Bloggingheads, Matt Duss interviews me about the aftermath of the Gaza offensive and Israeli politics ahead of the elections.
Israel’s Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, who previously served as Israel’s Prime Minister (1999-2001) and IDF Chief of Staff (1991-1995), made a surprise announcement in a press conference today, saying he will be retiring from politics to spend more time with his family. Barak will continue to serve as Israel’s Minister of Defense until the next government is formed following the January 2013 elections. This is Barak’s second announcement of retirement from politics, the first one coming in 2001 after his defeat in the 2001 general elections.
Barak’s popularity has significantly diminished in recent years, after he split from the Labor Party, which he headed, to form a new party, HaAtzmaut. The split insured that Barak could stay in Netanyahu’s government after most of the Labor’s Member of Knesset (the legislature of Israel) wanted to quit the government. Prior to Barak’s announcement, his party, which has five MKs who all split from the Labor Party, was hovering around the 2 per cent election threshold.
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The latest round of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants was covered around the clock in Israel. Media outlets largely adopted the government’s narrative and justifications for the offensive. Leftist Israeli bloggers and netizens, while criticizing the government throughout the operation, also attacked what they saw as a biased coverage of the events.
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