Post-Biden spat: what the Israeli papers say

Netanyahu is "zigzagging like a drunken driver".

The fallout continues from the diplomatic nightmare that was the visit to Israel by the US vice-president, Joe Biden, during which the interior ministry announced plans for 1,600 homes on occupied land in East Jerusalem.

Today Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the US, said that relations between the countries are "facing the most severe crisis since 1975".

At the Jerusalem Post, the editor-in-chief, David Horovitz, finds it hard to "reconcile the bitter, accusatory, public dressing-down" with the "insistent" US assurance on Israeli security.

It's not easy, no matter how persuasively it can be argued that Netanyahu brought this on himself.

Barry Rubin, writing yesterday, wondered what the "fuss" was about, arguing that the area in question is "not some new settlement but a neighborhood about five blocks from the pre-1967 border".

The action, if not the timing, was neither a provocation, the establishment of a "new settlement" nor proof that Israel doesn't want peace.

At Hareetz, an editorial calls for an end to the "lunacy" that has put US-Israel relations on a "collision course", arguing that "the government headed by Netanyahu is now emerging as a strategic threat". Yesterday, editor-at-large Aluf Benn argued that the Israeli PM faces a choice:

The prime minister has reached the moment of truth, where he must choose between his ideological beliefs and political co-operation with the right on the one hand, and his need for American support on the other.

At Ynet news, Moshe Dann called the diplomatic crisis a "blessing in disguise":

Supporters of Israel should rejoice that Biden and [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton have emerged from Obama's closet hatred of Israel.

Anat Gov, also at Ynet, finds himself pining for the "old Bibi" (Netanyahu) who would make "make (bad) decisions quickly and decisively", rather than the "new Bibi", "zigzagging like a drunken driver".

In the run-up to next week's Aipac annual policy conference, where both Netanyahu and Clinton are scheduled to speak, it is unclear who will blink first in the diplomatic stand-off. It may be that the Obama administration is reacting to domestic pressure on health-care reform, or seeking to lower expectations or shift the blame for an ill-fated peace process.

Regardless, Tel Aviv and Washington stand united on the most pressing regional concern, Iran. As David Miliband seeks to win China's support for sanctions, it seems inevitable that hard words on Iran will drown out the recriminations over Palestine.

Photo: Getty
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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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