This past week, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan passed away.
Dagan headed the Mossad from 2002 until 2010. He was best-known for alleged clandestine operations to thwart Iran's nuclear weapons program. The Mossad under his leadership was also said to have provided the intelligence that led to Israel bombing Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007 and the assassination of Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh in 2008.
In his later years, Dagan became a critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he had strained ties with the US and was not working hard enough toward a two-state solution.
Meanwhile, this week Netanyahu said that warmer Israeli ties with other Arab states will facilitate peace with the Palestinians. The administration is working against efforts to convene an international conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace, insisting that bilateral talks are the best way to go.
For his part, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a Kuwaiti television channel this week that he was determined to prevent an all-out violent uprising against Israel. He said that the second Intifada backfired, ruining the country and boosting international support for Israel. He also said a Palestinian state would only be achieved by diplomatic means.
Meanwhile a poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center found that nearly 60% of Palestinians support continuing the current wave of attacks against Israelis. In Gaza, the figure was 75%, far higher than the 51% in the West Bank. Most, however, some 70%, still saw the two-state solution as the best way to resolve the conflict.
The wave of violence showed no signs of abating this week, with the non-fatal stabbing of a soldier by the Ariel junction, and a border police officer near Hebron. There were also gun and car-ramming attacks near Kiryat Arba. The seven Palestinian assailants from the various attacks were shot dead.
In Turkey, a suicide bombing killed 5 people, including three Israelis two of whom were dual American citizens. Netanyahu condemned the attack and called for international solidarity in fighting terror, while Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sent his condolences to Israel for its losses. A member of the ruling Turkish AK party was fired after publishing an incendiary Tweet saying she wished Israeli tourists wounded in the attack had died.
In other Middle East news, President Reuven Rivlin traveled to Moscow two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he’d withdraw from Syria. Russia’s intervention had complicated Israeli efforts to ensure the conflict did not spill-over or provide game-changing weapons to Israel’s enemies.
Turning to the United States, the evolving US-Israel relationship was set to take center stage in the presidential campaign at the annual AIPAC Policy conference. A group of Jewish community leaders at the conference vowed to protest a speech by Republican Frontrunner Donald Trump and "the bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and misogyny expressed by Mr. Trump, and violence promoted by him."
Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, the only Jew among the remaining five presidential candidates and the first Jews to ever win a state primary for president, said he would not attend the conference due to scheduling conflicts with his campaign. Sanders said AIPAC refused to allow him to deliver a speech remotely, even though they had allowed previous candidates such as Mitt Romney to do so in prior election years.
Finally, US President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland, who is Jewish, to the US Supreme Court. The Republican-led congress has vowed that it will not even give an Obama nominee a hearing. If he is confirmed, however, he will bring the count of Jewish justices on the court to four. The other five are all Roman Catholics.