Foreign Relations & International Law

The Middle East Ticker

Yishai Schwartz, Jennifer R. Williams
Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 3:30 PM
With support of 67 parliamentarians, Netanyahu set to begin forming a government: Benjamin Netanyahu’s big election victory just got more official, with the leadership of parties representing a majority of the Knesset formally recommending that Israel’s President Ruby Rivlin task Netanyahu with the formation of a government.

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With support of 67 parliamentarians, Netanyahu set to begin forming a government: Benjamin Netanyahu’s big election victory just got more official, with the leadership of parties representing a majority of the Knesset formally recommending that Israel’s President Ruby Rivlin task Netanyahu with the formation of a government. Most analysts believe Netanyahu will form a narrow government composed of the right-of-center and religious parties which recommended him---but there are signs he may try to include some centrists as well. As he begins this coalition-forming process, Netanyahu is also struggling to contain the damage from incendiary campaign statements, apologizing directly to local Arab leadership and trying to reassure the United States and the broader international community that he remains committed to two states for two peoples. UN Gaza investigative commission to examine Palestinian war crimes as well: Mary McGowan Davis, the lead commission member after the resignation of chairman William Schabas, announced this week that the commission would be investigating Palestinian as well as Israeli actions during the summer’s Gaza war. “The commission,” she told the UN Human Rights Council, “has interpreted its mandate as including investigation of the activities of Palestinian armed groups in Gaza; including attacks on Israel.” Despite Schabas’s resignation and Davis’s reassurances, Israel remains deeply skeptical, insisting that the commission’s mandate, its staff, and the UNHRC itself remain deeply biased against Israel. Relatedly, both the US and Israel continued their general policy of boycotting UNHRC sessions related to Item 7---the UNHRC permanent agenda item devoted exclusively to discussing human rights violations by Israel (the only such item of its kind). Similarly, last week Israeli media was also in an uproar over a resolution passed by the UN Commission’s Status on Women condemning Israel for the effects of its policies on Palestinian women. Critics alleging UN bias pointed out that in nine documents released by the Commission, only one member state---Israel---was mentioned in regards to ongoing infringement of women’s rights. Israel’s chief military prosecutor orders investigation into last summer’s strike at UN school: On July 30th, 20 Palestinians in and near a UN school in Gaza that was serving as a shelter were killed in what may be the most controversial Israeli strike of this past summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel. After an initial inquiry by a special investigative branch led by Israeli General Noam Tibon, IDF chief prosecutor Dani Efroni concluded that there was strong basis to believe the strike was “not carried out according to the rules that bind the Israeli Defense Forces” and has ordered a formal investigation. Efroni has also concluded inquiries into the deaths of members of the Abu Aita and Abu Dahruj families, and found both strikes to have been lawful. So far, 120 claims have been filed regarding this summer’s Gaza war, and 65 have seen preliminary investigations. Of those, the chief military prosecutor has ordered criminal investigations into six (all of which are ongoing) and closed 17. French authorities rule out foul play in death of Yasser Arafat: Since his death in 2004, suspicious activists have raised concerns that the former Palestinian leader died from something other than natural causes. The conclusion of French experts, coming as part of a judicial inquiry initiated at the request of Arafat’s widow, may finally help put to rest ongoing conspiracy theorizing and concerns over assassination. Yemen’s beleaguered President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, reportedly assisted by a convoy of diplomatic officials from Saudi Arabia, has fled his palace in Aden as Houthi rebels advance toward the city. This follows reports yesterday that Saudi Arabia has begun massing heavy military equipment including artillery along its border with Yemen, though sources in Saudi Arabia told Reuters that the move was defensive in nature. Yemen is a critical battleground in the US counterterrorism effort, as Yemen is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the most active and dangerous Al Qaeda affiliates when it comes to attacks directly targeting the US homeland. Many analysts fear that outside military intervention in Yemen’s civil war will only serve to further destabilize the country and enable groups like AQAP and the Islamic State to proliferate. This afternoon, the White House issued a statement calling on the Houthi rebels to stop fomenting instability and violence and to cooperate with the UN-led process to resolve the difference among all the side. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights on Tuesday issued a statement condemning torture in Egyptian prisons and calling on the Egyptian government to investigate incidents of torture and undertake inspections of prison facilities. The statement was signed by a number of human rights organizations including the National Community of Human Rights and Law, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the Nadim Center for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, and two other women’s rights organizations. The son of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani has been convicted by Iran’s Revolutionary Court of security offenses and financial crimes. Because Mehdi Hashemi’s trial was held behind closed doors, the exact charges are unknown, but he was accused of inciting unrest after Iran’s disputed elections in 2009. According to the BBC, “Critics view Mehdi Hashemi's sentence as an attempt by hardliners to damage his father's reputation ahead of parliamentary elections next February.” As we reported previously, his father, former president Rafsanjani, was recently defeated by the ultraconservative Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi in a vote to determine the next leader of Iran’s Assembly of Experts. A new law to regulate public and private sector data sharing is currently being drafted in Dubai by the recently established Open Data Committee (ODC). The Khaleej Times reports, “With the exception of private, restricted and classified data and information that threatens national security, all data must be made available in public domains. The data will be made available in a centralised platform such as federal websites, or a decentralised manner like in the websites of various government entities, depending on the volume and size of data available.” At a news conference today, a UN official called on the regional powers providing money and weapons to the rival factions in Libya to use their leverage to pressure the groups to come to a political agreement and end the fighting. Though he did not explicitly say which countries were supplying arms to the warring factions, Claudio Cordone, the head of the UN mission in Libya, told reporters, “Everybody knows that the key countries that have influence on Libya’s factions are on one side the (United Arab) Emirates and Egypt and on the other side Qatar and to some extent Turkey.”

Yishai Schwartz is a third-year student at Yale Law School. Previously, he was an associate editor at Lawfare and a reporter-researcher for The New Republic. He holds a BA from Yale in philosophy and religious studies.
Jennifer R. Williams is the Deputy Foreign Editor at Vox and the former Deputy Foreign Policy Editor for Lawfare. Her work on jihadist groups, terrorism, and the Middle East has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, and of course, Lawfare.

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