It is an immense irony, as the great orientalist Bernard Lewis was fond of remarking, that Israel – the most vibrant and enthusiastic democracy in the Middle East – has to put up with the world’s worst electoral system. Its governments frequently collapse. Perhaps they do it philanthropically, to allow citizens once again the pleasure of going to the polls.
Israel’s longest serving leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, is back. His return confirms once again an iron clad rule of Israeli politics: never write Bibi off. A few years ago, his opponents briefly thought they had vanquished him for good.
In time-honoured Washington fashion, the memoir of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, makes the case that its author was a pivotal, if hidden, force in American politics. Kushner has himself in the background of everything significant that occurred in the four years Trump was in power.
On 22 May, in broad daylight, a colonel in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was killed near his home in Tehran. Hassan Sayyad Khodai was attacked by two men on a motorcycle. He was shot five times. His killers were not apprehended.
For all the pro-forma talk of a two-state solution among diplomats and politicians across the world, it is commonly believed that the Palestinian national cause has lost its impetus. Palestine lies in two divergent parts, separately ruled by parties which hate each other. Because no Palestinian state worth the name could spring quickly into existence, the diplomats and politicians believe, they need give it no heed save the platitudes.
The children of Ashkelon in southern Israel will be thankful that an order from the Israel Defense Force closed their school on Monday. Otherwise, a number of them might now be dead. Their school is as of this morning a smoking ruin, hit by a missile fired by Hamas from Gaza. But in Ashkelon at least, no children were harmed.
Mountainous and dry, with a tendency to anarchy in the ample spaces between its cities, Yemen has long been hospitable to insurgency. Yet in ancient times it was home to the Sabaeans and had claims to be the biblical land of the Queen of Sheba. Its fertility and beauty were such that the Romans called it Arabia Felix, ‘happy Arabia’. The people there are mostly Arabs and like much of the rest of Arabia, became subject to the distant domain of the Ottoman sultan. The fate of the peninsula was influenced significantly by Britain, which in 1937 took the port city of Aden as the centre of its colony (on independence in 1967, it became South Yemen). Britain exercised significant influence over who ruled Muscat and Oman; assisted succession to the monarchy and imamate of North Yemen; and together with the US confirmed the al Saud family as hereditary rulers of what became Saudi Arabia. Now combined, the former North and South Yemen are together Sunni by bare majority, but the Zaidi Shia remain a large, mainly northern minority.
Attempts to interrupt Iran’s nuclear proliferation are not uncommon, but they can often be made to sound more exciting than they really are. There seems to have been another effort over the weekend with an attack on the Iranian nuclear facility at Nantaz.