Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Benjamin Netanyahu

Correction Appended: Dec. 17, 2010

Highs: The Israeli Prime Minister spent a year assiduously deflecting U.S. pressure on Tel Aviv to move peace talks with the Palestinians forward, while shoring up his own right-wing domestic power base. By December, reports suggested that Washington had given up on pressuring Netanyahu's government to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank — a pre-condition to any direct talks with the Palestinians — after months of diplomatic wrangling with Tel Aviv. Many suggest Netanyahu's administration, backed by some of the more hawkish and far-right factions in the Israeli political spectrum, has little interest in actually reaching a lasting accord with the Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories.

Lows: Netanyahu was criticized abroad for supporting a proposed loyalty oath that would compel newly naturalized citizens to pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish" state. Netanyahu also received a lot of flak after Israeli troops intercepted a flotilla of aid ships carrying relief supplies to Gaza on May 31; nine activists aboard the ships died after resisting the Israeli soldiers boarding their vessels. But his biggest domestic challenge came in the beginning of December, when a fire raging in the Carmel forest killed 43 people, forced the evacuation of 17,000, and led to condemnation of the country's emergency forces as well as calls for Netanyahu's resignation. Police eventually identified a 14-year-old boy who tossed coals from his hookah into the woods as the instigator of the deadly blaze.

Ishaan Tharoor

The original story misrepresented the nature of a proposed Israeli loyalty oath, which has yet to be passed by the country's Parliament.