Iran to enter Jerusalem through Arab neighbourhoods?

The strange fears of the Israeli prime minister.

This from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is amenable to an interim agreement in the West Bank that would include the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders.

Netanyahu considers such an interim step a possible way to unfreeze the stalled political process that was created because of the Palestinian leadership's refusal to resume talks on a final settlement.

On the face of it this is an interesting, if not entirely promising report on the ongoing talks in Jerusalem between Netanyahu and US envoy George Mitchell -- of course, the article goes on to list the usual red lines, such as the refusal to freeze settlement-building in East Jerusalem. However, later on lies a hidden gem:

Netanyahu warned that if Israel withdraws from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, "Iran will be able to enter there," as it did in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, "but this will be as part of a final settlement. Meanwhile they tell me that I cannot build and plan on French Hill."

Iran to enter Israel through the Arab neighbourhoods? This is a great insight into the conflation of domestic and regional security issues on the Israeli right. The idea that Iran's influence on Shia militia in Lebanon points logically to a foothold in Sunni neighbourhoods of Jerusalem is just another example of the siege mentality of the Netanyahu government.

As Medhi Hasan pointed out about Gordon Brown's remarks at last night's leaders' debate, the idea that the answer to terrorism is to be absolutely everywhere in the Middle East is as out-dated as it is unrealistic. It is the worst result of the liberal interventionist consensus, and the reason why Israel can maintain its lock on the occupied territories.

Still, there are two levels here. As the article makes clear, it remains for Israel a strong option to exploit the peace process to move the US further from negotiation to aggression on Iran. It is up to the US to distinguish between the peace process and the war machine.

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.