As of Sunday, more than 180 Palestinians and eight Israelis have so far been killed in the most severe violence to occur in the region in years. Here’s a look at why it’s happening.
Why is violence flaring up in Israel and Gaza right now?
There were two main triggers that ignited the current crisis.
Protests erupted after attempts were made to evict a number of Palestinians from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Those specific evictions have been paused by Israel’s Supreme Court, but they’re part of a long-term campaign supported by the Israeli government to move Jewish settlers into Palestinian neighborhoods in the disputed area of east Jerusalem, which was occupied after the 1967 war and later annexed by Israel in a move that has not been recognized by the international community.
There were also restrictions imposed on Palestinians during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ended on Wednesday. For years, Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians have gathered at the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City to celebrate during Ramadan. This year, Israeli police erected barricades in the area and restricted the number of people permitted to enter.
After a series of protests the barricades were removed, but then Israeli police stormed the area around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, also known as the Temple Mount, one of the holiest sites in Islam and Judaism, currently managed by an Islamic endowment called the Waqf. Muslims are allowed to pray there, but Jews and Christians are not. The Israeli police said they were responding to Israeli Arabs having gathered stones to use in a later riot. Palestinian witnesses said fighting began after police entered the compound and fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Hundreds of Palestinians were injured in the raid. The Israeli police said at least 21 officers were also hurt.
One of the two main Palestinian territories, the Gaza Strip, is run by the Hamas group. Considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel, Hamas issued an ultimatum to Israel to remove its forces from Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa. It then started firing rockets into Israel, prompting the Israeli military to launch airstrikes. Tanks have also since been used by Israel to target tunnels that run between Gaza and Israel, according to the Israeli Defense Force.
More Hundreds of Palestinians have demonstrated in the West Bank, and at least 11 have been shot and killed by Israeli police during clashes there, according to The Associated Press.
By Ben Westcott and James Griffiths, CNN Updated 12:53 AM EDT, Wed May 05, 2021
Editor’s Note: (This is a wrap of several top stories from China for May 5, 2021.) (CNN) For a country with a much smaller military and no nuclear weapons, Australia is suddenly hinting an awful lot about a war with China.
On April 25, the symbolic date of Anzac Day, when Australia honors its war dead, newly appointed Defense Minister Peter Dutton said a conflict with China over Taiwan shouldn’t “be discounted,” adding that Australians needed to be “realistic” about tensions around the region.
In another Anzac Day message, the top official at Australia’s powerful Home Affairs department, Mike Pezzullo, told his staff “free nations” were hearing the “drums of war” beating again.
A few days later, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $580 million in military upgrades. One week on, several newspapers published a confidential briefing by Australia’s Maj. Gen. Adam Findlay to special forces soldiers, in which he said conflict with China was a “high likelihood.”
The idea of Australia fighting a war against China on its own is ridiculous. Last year, Australia’s military spending was about $27 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China’s was estimated to be 10 times higher, for the same period, at about $252 billion, the second highest in the world.
Plus, China is a nuclear power. Australia is not.
The China-Australia relationship is in the doldrums. The China-Australia relationship is in the doldrums. Relations between Canberra and Beijing have been in a deep freeze for almost a year, since Morrison and his government infuriated their Chinese counterparts by publicly calling for an investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, Australian exports to China — including coal, wheat and wine — have faced crippling obstacles.
The Australian government has moved to confront Beijing over allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has joined a chorus of state-run media highlighting Australia’s poor human rights record on refugees and Indigenous Australians.
But much of the war-like rhetoric from Australia is actually driven by domestic politics, said Yun Jiang, managing editor at the Australian National University’s Center on China in the World. The Morrison government is under pressure over allegations it has mishandled its Covid-19 vaccine rollout, and could be looking to shift the focus.
“Focusing on an external enemy has usually been quite effective in uniting public sentiment and rallying around the government,” she said. “I think it’s irresponsible for the government to talk it up like that. War is very serious business.”
India had no option left but to go nuclear and conduct a number of nuclear tests including thermonuclear device on 11 and 13 May 1998—the so called Pokharan II. There is no denying the fact that it was a geopolitical necessity because of growing Sino-Pakistan nexus and the lack of genuine commitment shown by acknowledged nuclear weapons states towards achieving a nuclear weapons free world. India understands it very well that its national security interests would be best served in a nuclear weapons free world. But there is a lack of consistency between the rhetoric and action on part of the acknowledged nuclear weapons states (US, Russia, UK, France and China) in adhering to the commitments made in Article VI of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Instead of getting the role of nuclear weapons de-emphasised, the salience of the nuclear weapons got increased especially when one does the assessment on the nuclear strategy of nuclear weapons states. On the one hand these nuclear weapons states, more particularly the United States and Russia, tell the world that they are moving on the path of reducing their nuclear warheads, but in reality these two countries have been showing signs of putting more reliance on nuclear weapons—hence, nuclear weapons are here to stay. Even though the Cold War got over and the world witnessed the demise of the Soviet Union, the nuclear weapons which were deployed during the Cold War years are still on hair-trigger alert. In practical sense, India had become frustrated because its voice was not heard at the United Nations whenever India proposed the means to achieve nuclear disarmament. India’s contributions in terms of ideas, resolutions and action plans to achieve a nuclear weapons free world at the United Nations was not given due attention by the United States and Russia in particular. They became the champion of vertical proliferation. China became a pioneer of horizontal proliferation by providing nuclear technology to Pakistan. India’s credentials remain very high because it has neither promoted vertical nor horizontal proliferation. Despite being a non-signatory to the NPT, it has followed all the provisions of the treaty guidelines. India never defied any international law and principles and found the nuclear tests a good bet for conveying message to its adversaries. India also understood the predicament of the regional security environment. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by India is purely for the purpose of deterrence. India is the only country across the globe which had put its nuclear doctrine in draft form for public debate and discussion. The response from the West in general and the US in particular on India’s draft nuclear doctrine was highly critical although very interesting. India stated in clear terms about its “no first use” intent where it articulated that it would not be the first one to use nuclear weapons against nuclear weapons states (NWS) and the non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS). The perception built by the NWS about the status of India whether it is an NWS or NNWS was dictated by the NPT definition that those countries which have tested their nuclear device after 1 January 1967 are only acknowledged de jure NWS. China, somehow, has taken this very seriously and still puts India as NNWS despite for all practical purposes it is an NWS. The US understood India’s potential and openly recognised it as a responsible nuclear player because it has not proliferated. The notion of India as a responsible nuclear power led the US to accept India as a de facto nuclear weapons state. The US accepted India’s Separation Plan where India has segregated both its civil nuclear and military facilities. This unique recognition of India by the US has elevated India’s position across the spectrum. India has also stated that it will have a “minimum credible nuclear deterrent capability”. It has obviously left to speculation as to how much minimum would be minimum. It must be emphasised here that the minimum number of nuclear warheads required for India would be relative. India requires to deal with two of the nuclear weapons states in its immediate neighbourhood. The West and the US have been trying their best to find the numbers. No sensible country will ever divulge the details of numbers required when they have limited capability. Both the US and Russia shrouded everything in secrecy about their numbers and when they achieved everything in plenty, they slowly and steadily started giving the information in public domain. India will have to be guarded on this and at the same time it has conveyed the message to the rest of the world that it is not interested in any nuclear arms race. It will keep its inventory at the minimum level. India has committed itself to retaliate in much greater force in the event of an attack by an adversary. India’s notion of massive retaliation is to inflict sufficient damage to its adversary so that the question of a third strike does not arise. India has also articulated that it will have a “triad” capability, which means it will have sufficient land-based, air-based and sea-based assets. The emphasis given on the acquisition of nuclear powered submarine tipped with sea launched ballistic missile all these years has boosted India’s nuclear deterrent capability. Since India has “no first use policy”, hence it should have a robust second-strike capability. In case of any eventuality, both land-based and air-based assets remain highly vulnerable and hence it is perhaps the sea-based assets which could complement India’s no first use policy. The integration of “Arihant” with “K-15 Sagarika” is a sign of reflecting its preparedness in the case of any attack by its adversary. India’s nuclear doctrine has also spoken about a robust “command and control” system, which perhaps remains the key and will always remain under civilian control. Even in the nuclear doctrine, India has argued the need to have complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the world. India has shown its commitment to nuclear disarmament. India’s nuclear doctrine since its formalisation in 2003 has not changed any of its stated position except that it added that India will retaliate with the use of nuclear weapons if it is attacked by chemical or biological weapons. It remains largely rhetoric because it would be too difficult for India to find the origin of attack in case these chemical or biological weapons are used. Right now, India is, undoubtedly, a victim of biological warfare. The pandemic has been continuing with dire consequences for India. There is an urgent need to figure out the origin of the use of biological weapons and obviously take stern measure to deal with its adversary. It would be in India’s interest to review and revisit its nuclear doctrine and see how there can be changes in some of the stipulations made. From time to time, the discussion on changing its “no-first use” stance to “first use” of nuclear weapons have taken place, but it seems that “no-first use” in the context of India has given more dividends. Nuclear weapons for India will strictly remain for deterrent purposes. India will not get influenced by the changes occurring among the NWS about their intentions, motivation, fundamental goals and how they keep relying on the role of nuclear weapons in their strategy. Arvind Kumar is Professor at School of International Studies (SIS) and Chairman of the Centre for Canadian, US and Latin American Studies, SIS, JNU, New Delhi. Monish Tourangbam teaches Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Manipal.
B-52 has completed the first successful off-ground test of a hypersonic missile being developed by the U.S. Air Force, as the Pentagon races against China and Russia to develop the next generation of weapons.
A B-52 Stratofortress bomber flew a 13-hour round trip to Alaska from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to test data transmission and target sensing for the AGM-183 air-launched rapid response weapon—or ARRW—on May 5, according to an Air Force statement released on Thursday, The ARRW is the hypersonic missile developed by Lockheed Martin for the Air Force.
During the trip, the B-52 was able to receive target data from sensors via the All-Domain Operations Capability experiment, or ADOC-E, more than 1,000 nautical miles away at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, the statement said.
BEST OF NEWSWEEK VIA EMAIL
BEST OF NEWSWEEK VIA EMAIL
Once it had received the data from the ADOC-E, the bomber was able to take a simulated shot of the target from 600 nautical miles away using the hypersonic missile.
“We were really exercising the data links that we needed in order to complete that kill chain loop, and then get the feedback to the players in the airspace that the simulated hypersonic missile was fired and effective,” said Lt. Col. Joe Little, deputy commander of the 53rd Test Management Group.
“The team did an outstanding job effecting this event both in planning and execution,” said Lt. Col. Matt Guasco, commander of the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron. “This is a win for the U.S. Air Force and greater [Department of Defense] as a whole but make no mistake, we are just getting started.”
First Lt. Savanah Bray, an Air Force spokeswoman, told Stars and Stripes that the test was “a major milestone.”
The flight test of the ARRW had been delayed after it was initially scheduled for December 2020. The Air Force has not explained precisely why the launch was pushed back, but said “technical findings” and the coronavirus pandemic were among the reasons.
Owner of Gaza Apartment Building Was Warned by Israeli Military to Evacuate In early April the test finally went ahead, but failed after the ARRW missile didn’t launch from the bomber carrying it. It was the seventh ARRW test and the first that involved an actual launch.
Hypersonic missiles could revolutionise warfare because of their high speeds, flat trajectory and ability to maneuver in flight, all of which will make it difficult for existing anti-missile systems to intercept them. Russia and China are investing heavily in hypersonic research and Moscow has already deployed two hypersonic weapons.
The missiles are made up of a solid-fuel rocket booster topped by an unpowered boost-glide vehicle. The booster propels the glide vehicle and its warheads—including nuclear warheads—to hypersonic speeds, after which the latter detaches and continues to its target.
The ARRW will be able to fly at speeds of between 5,000 and 6,000 miles per hour—somewhere between Mach 6.5 and Mach 8, according to Major General Andrew Gebara, director of strategic plans, programs and requirements for Air Force Global Strike Command, quoted in Air Force Magazine last October.
The Air Force has already completed the ARRW’s early testing phase, mounting a prototype of the weapon on a B-52 strategic bomber. The service is hoping to live-fire ARRW prototypes in October 2021, purchasing as many as eight prototypes. Operational capacity is slated for September 2022.
New Delhi, May 13: Chinas state medias threat to subject Australia to a missile strike, should it support Taiwan, has had an unexpected fallout—it has triggered demands in Canberra for nuclear weapons.
“Given that Australian hawks keep hyping or hinting that Australia will assist the US military and participate in war once a military conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Straits, and the Australian media outlets have been actively promoting the sentiment, I suggest China make a plan to impose retaliatory punishment against Australia once it militarily interferes in the cross-Straits situation,” writes Hu.
The bellicose insider of the CPC then details a plan of attack. “The plan [to attack Australia] should include long-range strikes on the military facilities and relevant key facilities on Australian soil if it really sends its troops to China’s offshore areas and combats against the PLA,” Hu writes. “If they [Australian hawks] are bold enough to coordinate with the US to militarily interfere in the Taiwan question and send troops to the Taiwan Straits to wage war with the PLA, they must know what disasters they would cause to their country.”
Undeterred by the Chinese threat former Yale and Harvard academic, Anders Corr, in his riposte written in Epoch Times, says that given Hu’s threat “the United States and allies should immediately support Australia in obtaining an independent submarine-based nuclear deterrent, so that Australia can join countries such as the United States, France, Britain, and India as powerful global defenders of freedom and democracy. The independent strength of individual members of an alliance improves the overall strength of the alliance”.
Corr is not the first one to call for an independent Australian nuclear deterrent, given the likely face-off with China in the Indo-Pacific region. “Far from being in a strategic backwater, Australia is very much now a state in the front line,” said Malcolm Davis, a military planner as quoted earlier by Bangkok Post.
Hugh White — a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University is another heavyweight advocating Australian nukes.
In his book, “How to Defend Australia”, he argues that developing nuclear weapons has become inevitable.
“The strategic costs of forgoing nuclear weapons in the new Asia could be much greater than they have been until now,” he says citing “big strategic shifts in Asia”.
Corr, points to the urgency of acquiring Australian nukes.
“Australia has a limited window of opportunity in which to go nuclear, after which China’s rising power and regional hegemony will make an independent nuclear Australia impossible. At that point, which could be as soon as 5 or 10 years, the window will close and China could more effectively use nuclear brinkmanship, control of Asian seas, check book diplomacy, and its economic trading power, to break Australia from its allies, and bring it under Beijing’s dominance,” he observes.
NATO should welcome Australia into its alliance as a full member, before China has a chance to create a territorial dispute down under, and thereby make Australian accession more difficult. If Washington came under the influence of Beijing, the bilateral U.S.-Australia alliance would be useless to Australia’s defence, he says.
Corr makes two additional points. First, NATO must change its strategic outlook by no longer narrowly focusing on the Atlantic. Instead, it should broaden its vision to include Asia. Second non-democracies such as Saudi Arabia and Vietnam should be included in the Indo-Pacific phalanx.
“NATO should no longer be a purely Atlantic affair, given globalization and the rise of China. What matters today in choosing our closest allies is not geography, but shared values in support of democracy, as well as the inclusion of a broader diversity of allies, including countries like Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, that will strengthen the alliance in resisting Beijing’s growing preponderance of power.”
As such, the authorities initially dismissed the advertisement as just another hoax. They routinely detained the “sellers-to-be” and forwarded a sample of their goods to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. They were shocked when the Centre reported that “the material was natural uranium”. As such the squad was compelled to book the duo under India’s Atomic Energy Act, 1962, at Nagpur police station.
The event, though shocking, is not one of its kind. Earlier, in 2016 also, two persons were arrested by the Thane (Maharashtra) police while they were trying to sell eight to nine kilograms of depleted uranium for Rs 240 million. It is surmised that sale of uranium by scrap dealers in India is common. But, such events rarely come in limelight.
According to Anil Kakodar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, `Factories using uranium as a counterweight in their machines are mandated to contact the Atomic Energy agencies and return uranium to them. They however resort to short cuts and sell the entire machine with uranium in scrap’.
The Indian media scarcely reports such incidents. However, the Indian government sometimes reports such incidents to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to meet disclosure requirements. According to international media reports on 25 February 2004, India reported 25 cases of “missing” or “stolen” radioactive material from its labs to the IAEA. Fifty-two percent of the cases were attributed to “theft” and 48 percent to the “missing mystery”. India claimed to have recovered lost material in 12 of 25 cases. It however admitted that 13 remaining cases remained mysterious.
India reports such incidents to the IAEA to portray itself as a “responsible state”. It is hard to believe that radioactive material could be stolen from nuclear labs without operators’ connivance.
Nine computers, belonging to India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation establishment at Metcalfe House, New Delhi, were stolen. India communicated 25 cases of ‘stolen or missing’ uranium to the IAEA. In different incidents, uranium in varying forms and quantities continue to be recovered from scrap dealers and others by Indian authorities. The recoveries include 57 pounds of uranium in rod form, eight kilograms in granular form, two hundred grams in semi-processed form, besides 25 kilograms in radioactive form, stolen from the Bibi Cancer Hospital.
The ‘thieves’ also stole three cobalt switches, worth Rs. 1.5 million, from the Tata Steel Company laboratory at Jamshedpur (Jharkhand). A shipment of beryllium (worth $24 million), was caught in Vilnius, on its way to North Korea. Taiwanese authorities had intercepted a ship carrying dual-use aluminum oxide from India to North Korea. New Jersey-based Indian engineer Sitaram Ravi Mahidevan was indicted for having bypassed US export procedures to send blueprints of solenoid-operated valves to North Korea.
The Taiwanese authorities had intercepted a ship, carrying dual-use aluminum oxide from India to North Korea. It is an essential ingredient of rocket casings and is, as such, prohibited for export to “rogue” countries.
Despite recurrent incidents of theft of uranium or other sensitive material from Indian nuclear labs, the IAEA never initiated a thorough probe into the lax security environment in government and private nuclear labs in india. However, the international media has a penchant for creating furore over uncorroborated nuclear lapses in Pakistan. A US magazine had reported that some uranium hexafluoride cylinders were missing from the Kahuta Research Laboratories. Pakistan’ then information minister and foreign-office spokesman had both refuted the allegation..
Similarly, Professor Shaun Gregory in his report The Security of Nuclear Weapons contends that those guarding about 120 nuclear-weapon sites, mostly in northern and western parts of Pakistan, have fragmented loyalties. As such, they are an easy prey to religious extremists.
The ‘research work’ by well-known scholars reflects visceral hatred against Pakistan. The findings in fresh ‘magnum opuses’ are a re-hash or amalgam of the presumptions and pretensions in earlier-published ‘studies’. It is time that the West deflected its attention to India where movements of nuclear materials, under the 123 expansion plan, are taking place between nuclear-power plants sprawling across different states.
Frederick W. Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon, also draw a gloomy portrait of the situation in Pakistan. In their article in The New York Times in November 2007, and predicted that extremists would take over, if rule of law collapses in Pakistan. Those sympathetic with the Taliban and al-Qaeda may convert Pakistan into a state sponsor of terrorism. They pointed to Osama bin Laden’s meeting with Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, former engineers of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission (having no bomb-making acumen).
They claimed that US military experts and intelligence officials had explored strategies for securing Pakistan’s nuclear assets. One option was to isolate the country’s nuclear bunkers. Doing so would require saturating the area, surrounding the bunkers, with tens of thousands of high-powered mines, dropped from air, packed with anti-tank and anti-personnel munitions. The panacea, suggested by them, was that Pakistan’s nuclear material should be seized and stashed in some “safe” place like New Mexico.
The pilloried Pakistani engineers had no knowledge of weaponisation. The critics mysteriously failed to mention that Pakistan is a party to the UN Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. The steps taken by Pakistan to protect its nuclear materials and installations conform to international standards. The National Command Authority, created on 2 February 2000, has made failsafe arrangements to control development and deployment of strategic nuclear forces.
Pakistan’s nuclear regulatory authority had taken necessary steps for safety, security, and accountability of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, facilities, and materials even before the 9/11 incident. These controls include a functional equivalent of the two-man rule and permissive action links (PALs). The indigenously-developed PALs are bulwarks against inadvertent loss of control, or accidental use of weapons. So far, there has been no security lapse in any of Pakistan’s nuclear establishments.
Abdul Mannan, in his paper titled “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan: Sabotage of a Spent Fuel Cask or a Commercial Irradiation Source in Transport”, has analysed various ways in which acts of nuclear terrorism could occur in Pakistan (quoted in Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Worries beyond War). He has fairly reviewed Pakistan’s vulnerability to nuclear terrorism through hypothetical case studies. He concludes that the threat of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan is a figment of imagination, rather than a real possibility.
There are millions of radioactive sources used worldwide in various applications. Only a few thousand sources, including Co-60, Cs-137, Ir-192, Sr-90, Am-241, Cf-252, Pu-238, and RA-226, are considered a security risk. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has enforced a mechanism of strict measures for administrative and engineering control over radioactive sources from cradle to grave. It conducts periodic inspections and physical verifications to ensure security of the sources. The Authority has initiated a Five-Year National Nuclear-Safety-and-Security-Action Plan to establish a more robust nuclear-security regime. It has established a training centre and an emergency-coordination centre, besides deploying radiation-detection-equipment at each point of nuclear-material entry in Pakistan, supplemented by vehicle/pedestrian portal monitoring equipment where needed.
Fixed detectors have been installed at airports, besides carrying out random inspection of personnel’s luggage. All nuclear materials are under strict regulatory control right from import until their disposal.
Nuclear controls in India and the USA are not more stringent than Pakistan’s. It is not understood why the media does not deflect their attention to the fragile nuclear-security environment in India. It is unfortunate that the purblind critics fail to see the gnawing voids in India’s nuclear security.
The ‘research work’ by well-known scholars reflects visceral hatred against Pakistan. The findings in fresh ‘magnum opuses’ are a re-hash or amalgam of the presumptions and pretensions in earlier-published ‘studies’. It is time that the West deflected its attention to India where movements of nuclear materials, under the 123 expansion plan, are taking place between nuclear-power plants sprawling across different states.
Above all, will the international media and the IAEA look into open market uranium sales in India?
A threat viewed as existential by bombmakers, presidents, and arms control activists since the first nuclear weapons were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, nuclear weapons deployed today have a capacity to destroy all life on Earth.
Salvaging U.S. nuclear policy from the wreckage left by the Trump Administration, President Biden quickly renewed for five years the New START Treaty which limits the number of deployed nuclear warheads at 1,550 each for the U.S. and Russia
President Biden has also entered negotiations with Iran to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or the Iran nuclear deal) which Trump abrogated in 2017. The JCPOA had been negotiated by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, Russia, France, Great Britain, the U.S. plus Germany –all of whom remain committed to it.
All this is a good beginning on the nuclear front for the new Administration, but historic leadership will be required of Biden and members of Congress in the coming months, as Appropriations Committees consider spending up to $1.5 trillion on “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The Fiscal 2022 budget scheduled for presentation May 24 will include provision for a newly designed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, GBSD—which could wind up costing more than $140 billion, and $250 billion over three decades.] The GBSD, would replace the Minuteman III ICBM’s currently deployed in silos in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming
Democratic Senator Ed Markey (Massachusetts) and Representative Ro Khanna (17th District, California) have filed bills in Congress to transfer funds from the new ICBMs toward research for universal vaccines against the Novelcorona virus. The Investing in Cures Before Missiles (ICMB) Act, according to Markey, “makes clear that we can begin to phase out the Cold War nuclear posture that risks accidental nuclear war while still deterring adversaries and assuring allies, and redirect those savings to the clear and present dangers posed by coronaviruses and other emerging and infectious diseases. The devastation sown by COVID-19 would pale in comparison to that of even a limited nuclear war. The ICBM Act signals that we intend to make the world safe from nuclear weapons and prioritize spending that saves lives, rather than ends them.”
Proponents of GBSD including its general contractor Northrop Grumman and major sub-contractors have spent at least one hundred nineteen million dollars of lobbying Congress in 2019-2021; the military industrial complex on parade.
Other initiatives would remove from “hair trigger alert” status controlling the four hundred Minuteman III missiles currently deployed in western States. “Hair trigger alert” and “launch on warning” are relics of the Cold War which give decision makers at most ten minutes to evaluate the validity of the warning of a nuclear attack, and to launch hundreds of the U.S. ICBMs before the enemy’s missile reach their targets.
Dozens of false warnings have scrambled B-52 jets loaded with megatons of nuclear bombs, raised Minuteman missiles to highest alert, roused sleeping presidents out of bed, or caused low ranking military personnel to disobey command and control orders to defuse a frantic but false alarm.
Such false warnings consist of flocks of flying swans, a bear climbing a missile pad security fence, the rising moon, the sun’s reflection on an unusual cloud formation, a defective computer chip costing twenty-five cents, and practice tapes of a nuclear attack unwittingly communicated in Hawaii as “This is Not a Drill”.
China has removed “launch on warning” status from its three hundred nuclear armed missiles. China’s Director of Arms Control, Fu Cong, in 2019 called for all nuclear armed nations to remove their nuclear armed missiles from hair trigger alert, which China considers too risky. The consequences of an accidental launch of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic. Standing down thousands of nuclear weapons from “launch on warning” makes all the sense in the world and could bolster the U.S.’ bona fides in nuclear weapons reduction negotiations going forward.
George Schultz, former Secretary of State, and editor of “The War That Should Never Be Fought”, advised that our adversaries are not always wrong, the U.S. is not always right, and verifiable nuclear weapons treaties are the only alternative to escalating nuclear weapons competition and eventual calamity. Nuclear weapons negotiation can bridge intractable geo-political conflicts, build mutual trust, and save taxpayers trillions of dollars.
American administrations rejected Soviet President Gorbachev’s offer to eliminate all nuclear weapons. President George Bush abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, spawning a new nuclear arms race, and Trump withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty, returning Europe to a no man’s land vulnerable to tactical nuclear weapons.
No First Use (NFU) of nuclear weapons, could provide a logical first step away from the fifty- year policy of “deterrents” and mutually assured destruction, universally referred to by the most appropriate of acronyms — MAD. MAD is designed to discourage adversaries from attacking by assuring that the aggressor, principally the Soviet Union/Russia, or vice versa the U.S. would suffer devastating retaliation. In his inimitable style Robert McNamara calculated the level of assured strategic destruction to be thirty percent of Russia’s population, and seventy percent of Russia’s economic capacity, ie. one hundred million Russian dead etc. QED, Quite Easily Done.
No First Use of nuclear weapons eliminates the need or rationale for a significant part of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Much of the huge cost associated with the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal pertains to the survivability and retaliatory response to a nuclear attack. Yes, NFU means the U.S. is taking a pre-emptive nuclear first strike “off the table”
No First Use is also the subject of legislation filed in this year’s Congress (117th) by Senator Elizabeth Warren MA and Representative Adam Smith, WA. Smith chairs the influential House Armed Services Committee and describes the NFU bill as, “The United States should never initiate a nuclear war. This bill would strengthen deterrence while reducing the chance of nuclear use due to miscalculation or misunderstanding. Codifying that deterring nuclear use is the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal strengthens U.S. national security and would renew U.S. leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and disbarment.”
Following Trump’s perverse logic: “Why have nuclear weapons if you cannot use them?”, the Sea Launched Cruise Missile-Nuclear, and low yield submarine launched cruise missiles- nuclear were created. The SLCM-N is considered redundant, provocative, and costs more than ten billion dollars. Senator Chris Van Hollen, Md, and Representative Joe Courtney, CT, have recently filed bills to defund the SLCM-N. “Installing so-called ‘tactical’ nuclear warheads on Virginia-class attack subs is a money drain that will hinder construction of three Virginia-class attack submarines per-year—which both the Obama and Trump shipbuilding plans endorsed,” said Courtney.
Literally and figuratively at the core of the plan to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal are projects to manufacture new plutonium pits for the next generation of nuclear weapons. Tens of billions of dollars would initially fund construction of plutonium bomb plants at Savannah River Site, S.C., and Los Alamos, N.M. These funds flow through the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration. NNSA FY 2021 budget request of nearly twenty billion dollars is more than one-half the entire Department of Energy budget request. Whether new nuclear bombs take precedence over new clean energy technologies should be questioned in Congressional committee hearings in the coming weeks.
Regarding plutonium pit production, the DOE estimates the legacy clean- up cost of plutonium manufacture since the Manhattan Project during WWII at one trillion dollars. Some sites like Hanford WA and Rocky Flats CO are deemed polluted beyond remediation and are ruined forever.
Were Congress and the Biden Administration to pause, review or even defund any or all of the nuclear weapon programs they would also pause the nascent nuclear arms race stalking future generations. President Biden could and should send a clear signal to his deputies who will soon write the Nuclear Posture Review issued every five years. Quoting Ronald Reagan, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” should be the mantra of the Biden Nuclear Posture Review.
By introducing the American public to taboo issues such as “No First Use” of nuclear weapons, taking ICMB’s off “hair trigger alert”, debating the “sole authority” of the President to order a nuclear attack, and working for the eventual verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons, the Biden Administration would enhance its standing in the world’s arms control community–standing squandered by Trump. Biden could save hundreds of billions of dollars by transferring funds from nuclear armed missiles to research to prevent the next pandemic, or cybersecurity. And maybe, if our luck still holds, he could avoid destroying human civilization and much of life on Earth.
Another arena for Biden administration action is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — the cornerstone of nuclear arms control. Signed in 1968, it is reviewed every five years, this year in Vienna in August. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. arms control negotiators will bring enhanced credibility to the table if they eschew Trump’s jingoistic nuclear weapons policies.
Article VI of the NPT commits all signatories to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons from their arsenals. The massive nuclear arms build-up the U.S. is considering defies the spirit and letter of NPT’s Article VI.
Since the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, eminent scientists like Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, philosophers like Bertrand Russell, religious leaders like the Dalai Lama and many Catholic Popes, Quakers and Imams—in fact, the great majority of the world’s nations and peoples–have demanded that international treaties curtail and eliminate nuclear weapons from the Earth.
Their efforts have led to decreasing nuclear weapons from 70,000 to the current 16,000, ninety percent of which are held in Russian and U.S. arsenals Forty percent of the world’s population now live in the five Nuclear Weapons Free Zones established under Article VII of the NPT. And nuclear weapons are now illegal in the fifty- four countries that have ratified the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, TPNW, entered into force February 2021.
Still ominous warnings about the renewed nuclear arms race are rising. “The likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe is greater today than during the Cold War, and the public is completely unaware of the danger,” says former Secretary of Defense William Perry. The Biden Administration has quickly reached an inflexion point for U.S. nuclear weapons policy: either double down on new weapons for decades into the future or seek verifiable consequential nuclear weapons treaties.
According to Rutgers Professor Alan Robock, even a fraction of the nuclear weapons currently deployed–one hundred–could create a nuclear winter dispersing high in the atmosphere enough soot to block sunlight and make agriculture impossible, leading to famine for billions of people.
Corresponding with Albert Einstein in 1932, Sigmund Freud remarked that humans have a propensity for violence, and an instinct to kill and destroy. Only multi-lateral laws could abate man’s “death wish,” the two agreed. Such laws do exist in the form of nuclear treaties, like New START, the NPT and TPNW.
Ridding the world of these horrific weapons is not fantasy but is an imperative for world leaders. Biden stated as Vice-President, “The spread of nuclear weapons is the greatest threat facing the country and, I would argue, facing humanity. And that is why we are working both to stop their proliferation and eventually to eliminate them”.
The next few weeks and months will determine the course of nuclear weapons policy for the U.S. and the world. There are only two choices: expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal or reduce it, agree on verifiable nuclear weapons treaties with Russia and China or threaten catastrophic war, spend trillions of dollars on demonic weapons or on medicine, schools and art… life or death.
Report states there are minimal chances of general war between India and Pakistan but the crises between the two are likely to become more intense, risking an escalatory cycle The prospects of striking a peace deal in Afghanistan during the next year remain dim: report Fahad Zulfikar Updated 16 Apr 2021
(Karachi) India is more likely to respond with military force to “perceived or real” provocations from Pakistan under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a report released by US intelligence revealed.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in its Annual Threat Assessment report to the US Congress, stated that there are minimal chances of general war between arch-rivals, India and Pakistan. However, the crises between the two are likely to become more intense, risking an escalatory cycle.
The report said, “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely than in the past to respond with military force to perceived or real Pakistani provocations, and heightened tensions raise the risk of conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, with violent unrest in Kashmir or a militant attack in India being potential flashpoints.”
The ODNI report transpired that tensions between the two nuclear states are a concern for the world.
It stated that the fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, violence between Israel and Iran, the activity of foreign powers in Libya, and conflicts in other areas including Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have the potential to escalate or spread.
About the Afghan peace process, the report assessed that the prospects of striking a peace deal during the next year remain dim.
“The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan Government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support. Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory, it said.
“Afghan forces continue to secure major cities and other government strongholds, but they remain tied down in defensive missions and have struggled to hold recaptured territory or reestablish a presence in areas abandoned in 2020,” the report highlighted.
Regarding Iran’s role in Afghanistan, the report said: “Iran will hedge its bets in Afghanistan.” It added that Iran publicly backs Afghan peace talks, but it is worried about a long-term US presence in Afghanistan. As a result, “Iran is building ties with both the government in Kabul and the Taliban so it can take advantage of any political outcome,” the report mentioned.
BERLIN — Iran has enriched uranium to slightly higher purity than previously thought because of “fluctuations” in the process, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog said Wednesday.
The report underscores the challenges diplomats face in ongoing talks, that began in April, to bring the United States back into the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, which is supported by President Joe Biden.
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The initial announcement from Iran that it would start enriching to 60% — which is not weapon’s grade but its highest purity yet — was made just as the talks were to begin in Vienna. Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported to member agencies Tuesday that the latest inspections confirmed Iran continues to enrich uranium at up to 60% purity in its Natanz plant.
Additionally, samples taken April 22 “showed an enrichment level of up to 63% … consistent with fluctuations of the enrichment levels experienced in the mode of production at that time,” the agency said.
Iran has been steadily violating the restrictions of the landmark 2015 deal after then-President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out unilaterally in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions. The deal promised Iran economic incentives in exchanges for curbs on its nuclear program.
Iran has intended the violations to pressure the other nations involved — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — into finding ways to offset the U.S. sanctions, so far unsuccessfully.
The U.S. is not at the table for the talks that began in April, but the other members of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, have been shuttling between an American delegation also in Vienna and the Iranian delegation.
The pact is meant to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, something the country insists it does not want to do. The government in Tehran has said that it is prepared to reverse all of its violations but that Washington must remove all sanctions imposed under Trump — including measures imposed over issues not related to its nuclear program.
In addition to exceeding the purity of uranium enrichment past the 3.67% allowed, Iranian violations of the nuclear deal have included installing more advanced centrifuges and stockpiling more enriched uranium than permitted.
The U.S. has insisted that Iran must return to full compliance, but just how that would be carried out is still being discussed.
Despite its violations of all major restrictions of the nuclear deal, the other countries involved have insisted that it has been worth preserving, if nothing else because it has meant atomic-agency inspectors have been able to continue monitoring Iran’s nuclear program.
That access may be further restricted soon, however.
Iran in February began restricting international inspections of its nuclear facilities, but under a last-minute deal worked out on Feb. 21 during a trip to Tehran by Grossi, some access was preserved.
Under the agreement, Iran said that it no longer would provide surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities with the U.N. agency but promised to preserve the tapes for three months.
It then will hand them over to the agency if it is granted sanctions relief. Otherwise, Iran has vowed to erase the recordings.
May 21 represents the end of that three-month window, though there has been some suggestion Iran may extend the deadline if it is satisfied with the progress of the Vienna talks.
Information for this article was contributed by Amir Vahdat of The Associated Press.
FILE – This Jan. 15, 2011 file photo shows Arak heavy water nuclear facilities, near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. The United Nations’ atomic watchdog says Iran has enriched uranium to slightly higher purity than previously thought due to “fluctuations” in the process in a report that underscores the challenges diplomats face in ongoing talks to bring the United States back into the nuclear deal with Tehran. (AP Photo/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan, File) FILE – This Jan. 15, 2011 file photo shows Arak heavy water nuclear facilities, near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. The United Nations’ atomic watchdog says Iran has enriched uranium to slightly higher purity than previously thought due to “fluctuations” in the process in a report that underscores the challenges diplomats face in ongoing talks to bring the United States back into the nuclear deal with Tehran. (AP Photo/ISNA, Hamid Foroutan, File)
Israeli artillery firing toward Gaza on Thursday night. Israeli artillery firing toward Gaza on Thursday night.Dan Balilty for The New York Times Israeli ground forces carried out attacks on the Gaza Strip early Friday in an escalation of a conflict with Palestinian militants that had been waged by airstrikes from Israel and rockets from Gaza.
It was not immediately clear if the attack was the prelude to a ground invasion against Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza.
An Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, initially said that “there are ground troops attacking in Gaza,” but later clarified that Israeli troops had not entered Gaza, suggesting the possibility of artillery fire from the outside. He provided no further details.
The surge in fighting highlighted the unprecedented position Israel finds itself in — battling Palestinian militants on its southern flank as it seeks to head off its worst civil unrest in decades.
It followed another day of clashes between Arab and Jewish mobs on the streets of Israeli cities, with the authorities calling up the army reserves and sending reinforcements of armed border police to the central city of Lod to try to head off what Israeli leaders have warned could become a civil war.
Taken together, the two theaters of turmoil pointed to a step change in the grinding, decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. While violent escalations often follow a predictable trajectory, this latest bout, the worst in seven years, is rapidly evolving into a new kind of war — faster, more destructive and capable of spinning in unpredictable new directions.
In Gaza, an impoverished coastal strip that was the crucible of a devastating seven-week war in 2014, Palestinian militants fired surprisingly large barrages of enhanced-range rockets — some 1,800 in three days — that reached far into Israel.
Israel intensified its campaign of relentless airstrikes against Hamas targets there on Thursday, pulverizing buildings, offices and homes in strikes that have killed 103 people including 27 children, according to the Gaza health authorities.
The funeral of members of Hamas after they were killed in an Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on Thursday. The funeral of members of Hamas after they were killed in an Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on Thursday.Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times Six civilians and a soldier have been killed by Hamas rockets inside Israel.
Egyptian mediators arrived in Israel Thursday in a sooner-than-usual push to halt the spiraling conflict.
Most alarming for Israel, though, was the violent ferment on its own sidewalks and streets, where days of rioting by Jewish vigilantes and Arab mobs showed no sign of abating.
The unrest in several mixed-ethnicity cities, where angry young men stoned cars, set fire to mosques and synagogues, and attacked each other, signaled a collapse of law and order inside Israel on a scale not seen since the start of the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, 21 years ago.
The violence follows a month of boiling tensions in Jerusalem, where the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes coincided with a spate of Arab attacks against Israeli Jews, and a march through the city by right-wing extremists chanting “Death to Arabs.”
The jarring violence this week caused Israeli leaders, led by President Reuven Rivlin, to evoke the specter of civil war — a once unthinkable idea. “We need to solve our problems without causing a civil war that can be a danger to our existence,” Mr. Rivlin said. “The silent majority is not saying a thing, because it is utterly stunned.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Lod, a working-class city with a mixed Arab-Israeli population that has emerged as the center of the upheaval. Hulks of burned-out cars littered the streets where, a few nights earlier, Arab youths burned synagogues and cars, threw stones and let off sporadic rounds of gunfire, before gangs of Jewish vigilantes counterattacked and set their own fires.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in the city of Lod on Thursday.Pool photo by Yuval Chen On Thursday, a Jewish man was stabbed as he walked to a synagogue there, but survived.
“There is no greater threat now than these riots,” said Mr. Netanyahu, who vowed to deploy the Israel Defense Forces to keep the peace in Lod. A day earlier, he described the violence as “anarchy” and said: “Nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs, and nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews.”
To secure Lod, the government brought in thousands of armed border police from the occupied West Bank, and imposed an 8 p.m. curfew, but to little effect.
Arab residents, who account for about 30 percent of the town’s 80,000 people, continued a campaign of stone-throwing, vandalism and arson, while Jewish extremists arrived from outside Lod, burning Arab cars and property. Arab protesters erected flaming roadblocks.
As night fell there were signs that the violence might escalate when a large convoy of armed Jews in white vans moved into town.
Palestinian leaders, however, said the talk of civil war by Jewish leaders was a distraction from what they called the true cause of the unrest in Lod — police brutality against Palestinian protesters and provocative actions by right-wing Israeli settler groups.
“The police shot an Arab demonstrator in Lod,” said Ahmad Tibi, the leader of the Ta’al party and a member of Israel’s Parliament. “We don’t want bloodshed. We want to protest.”
Israeli security forces on patrol in Lod on Thursday night.Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Mr. Tibi said that Mr. Netanyahu, who has frequently aligned with far-right and nationalist parties to stay in power, had only himself to blame for the political tinderbox that has exploded with such ferocity across Israel.
On Thursday evening, the State Department urged American citizens to reconsider traveling to Israel and warned against going to the occupied West Bank or Gaza. In an advisory, the department noted rocket attacks that could reach Jerusalem, protests and violence throughout Israel and a “dangerous and volatile” security environment in the Gaza Strip and on its borders.
The trouble started on Monday, when a heavy-handed police raid at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque — the third-holiest site in Islam, located atop a site also revered by Jews — set off an instant backlash.
But beyond the images of police officers flinging stun grenades and firing rubber bullets inside the mosque, Palestinian outrage was also fueled by much wider, decades-old frustrations.
Human Rights Watch recently accused Israel of perpetrating a form of apartheid, the racist legal system that once governed South Africa, citing a number of laws and regulations that it said systematically discriminate against Palestinians. Israel vehemently rejected that charge. But its security forces are now confronted with a swelling wave of fury from the country’s Arab Israeli minority, which complains of being treated as second-class citizens.
“‘Coexistence’ means that both sides exist,” said Tamer Nafar, a famous rapper from Lod. “But so far there is only one side — the Jewish side.”
The rocket attacks from Gaza are also quantitatively and qualitatively different from the last war in 2014. The more than 1,800 rockets Hamas and its allies have fired at Israel since Monday already represent a third of the total fired during the seven-week war in 2014.
A house that was hit by a rocket fired overnight from Gaza in Petah Tikva, Israel.Dan Balilty for The New York Times Israeli intelligence has estimated that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian militant groups have about 30,000 rockets and mortar projectiles stashed in Gaza, indicating that despite the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the coastal territory, the militants have managed to amass a vast arsenal.
The rockets have also demonstrated a longer range than those fired in previous conflicts, reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
They have also proven more effective. In the 2014 war, they killed a total of six civilians inside Israel, the same number killed in the last three days.
Those casualties appeared to be a product of Hamas’s new tactic of firing more than 100 missiles simultaneously, thwarting the American-financed Iron Dome missile-defense system, which Israeli officials say is 90 percent effective at intercepting rockets before they land inside Israel.
Israeli’s Iron Dome air defense system launching to intercept rockets fired from Gaza on Thursday.Ariel Schalit/Associated Press Gaza residents have no such protection against Israeli airstrikes, which crushed three multistory buildings in the strip after residents were warned to evacuate. Israeli officials said that the buildings housed Hamas operations and that they were striving to limit civilian casualties, but many Gaza residents viewed the Israeli attacks as a form of collective punishment.
Thursday was supposed to be a day of celebration for Palestinians as they marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a day when Muslims typically gather to pray, wear new clothes and share a family meal. In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of worshipers gathered at dawn outside the Aqsa Mosque, some waving Palestinian flags and a banner showing an image of Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas.
Muslims gathered for prayers outside the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Thursday.Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press In Gaza, though, it was a somber day of funerals, fear and missile strikes. Some families buried their dead, others laid out prayer mats beside buildings recently destroyed in Israeli airstrikes, and still others came under attack from Israeli drones hovering overhead.
“Save me,” pleaded Maysoun al-Hatu, 58, after she was wounded in a missile strike outside her daughter’s house in Gaza, according to a witness. An ambulance arrived moments later, but it was too late. Ms. al-Hatu was dead.
American and Egyptian diplomats were heading to Israel to begin de-escalation talks. Egyptian mediators played a key role in ending the 2014 war in Gaza, but this time there is little optimism they can achieve a quick result.
Israeli military officials have said their mission is to stop the rockets from Gaza, and the military moved tanks and troops into place along the border with Gaza on Thursday in preparation for a possible ground invasion.
A residential building that was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Thursday in Gaza City.Hosam Salem for The New York Times The decision to extend the campaign is ultimately political. Analysts said that a ground operation would likely incur high casualties, and it was unclear if the troop deployment was anything more than a threat.
But the political calculation grew more complicated on Thursday after the collapse of negotiations between opposition parties seeking to form a new government.
Naftali Bennett, an ultranationalist former settler leader who opposes Palestinian statehood, pulled out of the talks, citing the state of emergency in several Israeli cities.
His withdrawal increases the likelihood of Israel holding a general election later this summer — in what would be its fifth in just over two years. And the collapse of the talks appears to benefit Mr. Netanyahu, making it impossible for opposition parties to form an alliance large enough to oust him from office.
Mr. Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, is serving as caretaker prime minister until a new government can be formed.
On the Palestinian side, the indefinite postponement last month of elections by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, created a vacuum that Hamas is more than willing to fill.
Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Lod, Israel; Iyad Abuheweila from Gaza City; Patrick Kingsley, Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; Mona el-Naggar and Vivian Yee from Cairo; Megan Specia from London; Steven Erlanger from Brussels; and Lara Jakes from Washington.