Russia surprisingly says west Jerusalem is Israel’s capital
Russia recognizes west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated in a surprise announcement on Thursday.
The announcement comes as US President Donald Trump’s administration is agonizing over whether to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would constitute recognizing west Jerusalem as the country’s capital. No other country in the world recognizes any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry reads, “We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
This is a sharp shift in Russian policy, which until now has formally held that Jerusalem should eventually be under a permanent international regime. The statement appears in English on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Russian web site. (Jerusalem Post)
Amidror: US attack in Syria shows Iran that military option is indeed ‘on the table’
Iran, more than any other country in the world, is carefully taking note of the US missile attack in Syria overnight, former National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror said Friday.
“More than any place in the world, the decision makers in Iran are learning the reaction of the Americans, taking into account that if they don’t behave, the military option is on the table, unlike the previous administration,” Amidror said during a conference call organized by The Israel Project.
Amidror, a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, said that Iran bears responsible for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s actions, since they and Hezbollah have given him unqualified support over the years regardless of his brutality. Amidror said that Iran supported Assad after his previous use of chemical weapons, and that there was no question that even if they did not have prior knowledge of the attack in Idlib, they are “morally responsible.”
Regarding whether Israel itself will take military action in Syria, as former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin suggested earlier this week, Amidror said that Israel would remain “on the sidelines” but provide both humanitarian aid to the Syrians, and intelligence assistance to its allies acting inside Syria.
“We will stay on the sidelines, because our strategic decision was not to take part in this war,” he said. “If there is something specific that we can do militarily or from an intelligence point of view, I’m sure Israel will be willing to contribute to such efforts,” adding that “I’m sure we are active in helping our allies with intelligence.”
Amidror said that the two red lines that Israel set out remain: that Jerusalem will act in the future, as it has in the base, against the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, and to keep Hezbollah from using Syria as a launching pad for attacks against Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
PM wants buffer zones on Syria border as part of deal to end war
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly pushing for the establishment of buffer zones along the Syrian border with Israel and Jordan as part of any future internationally brokered resolution to the six-year civil war.
According to a report by the Haaretz daily on Friday, Netanyahu raised the issue with both US officials and other world powers, in a bid to distance Iranian and Hezbollah fighters from Israeli territory.
Netanyahu wants the buffer areas be on the Syrian side of the border, secured by forces other than Israel, the report said.
Israeli officials have long accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of trying to build an anti-Israel front on the Syrian Golan, alongside Hezbollah forces and local Druze opposed to Israel. Netanyahu has sought Russia’s help in seeking to thwart the attempts of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah to use Syria as a base from which to attack Israel.
Netanyahu raised that issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin — whose forces are aligned with Iran in supporting the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad — in a meeting in Moscow last month.
“The prime minister will express Israel’s strong opposition to the presence of Iranian forces, and those of its proxies, on our northern border and in the Mediterranean Sea in the context of the talks on a settlement of any kind,” Netanyahu’s office said ahead of the meeting.
Also last month, Chagai Tzuriel, the director-general of the Intelligence Ministry, told The Times of Israel that keeping Iran and Hezbollah from getting a foothold on the Golan was at the top of the agenda for Israel’s security apparatus.
“If Iran and Hezbollah manage to base themselves in Syria, it would be a permanent source of instability in the entire region,” Tzuriel explained, referring specifically to the threat of an Iranian naval base on the Mediterranean. “It would also bring instability to areas with Sunni minorities outside the Middle East.”
Over the past year, Israel has carried out numerous airstrikes on Syrian territory, most of which were reportedly targeting Hezbollah weapons convoys. In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for the Lebanon-based terror group, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime. (the Times of Israel)
Lone soldiers raise their glasses at President’s Residence
Twenty-five IDF lone soldiers raised their glasses last week at President Rivlin’s official residence together, in a pre-Passover toast which was attended by President Reuven Rivlin’s wife Nechama, together with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s wife.
“To be a male or female soldier is obviously not easy, To be a lone male or female soldier is a lot harder,” Nechama Rivlin acknowledged. “But I want to tell you that you are not alone. Many civilians do the utmost to ensure that you are not short of anything.”
Lone soldiers at the President’s residence
Eisenkot’s wife also praised the soldiers for their military contribution. “Each and every one of you has a different story, but the words ‘contribution’ and ‘mission’ apply to you all,” she said.
Around 6,900 lone soldiers currently serve in the IDF, 2,000 of whom are new Olim. Sixty percent of them serve in combat units, while 40% serve in support units. (Ynet News)
Should Israelis be happy about Trump’s missile strike?
by Ron Kampeas JTA/Jerusalem Post
Here are some reasons why Israelis are backing the strike – and some reasons why it might not be so simple.
Israel’s government and pundits are unabashedly pleased by the missile strike ordered by US President Donald Trump early Friday on the Syrian airfield from where Tuesday’s deadly chemical attack is believed to have been launched.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out a statement out at 6 a.m. local time – unusually early – just to make clear he “fully supports” the strike.
“In both word and action, President Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” he said.
Trump ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles on the airfield in northern Syria believed to be where a sarin attack was launched that killed at least 72 civilians, including many children. The missile attack, Syria said in reports that could not be confirmed, killed nine civilians – including four children – and six troops, and caused extensive damage.
Here are some reasons why Israelis are backing the strike – and some reasons why it might not be so simple.
The moral imperative
Images of children gassed a few hundred miles north of Israel hits close to home for a country where the helplessness that Jews faced against the Nazi genocide remains a defining national characteristic.
Aftermath of suspected chemical gas attack in Idlib , Syria on April 4, 2017 (REUTERS)
“There was a genuinely strongly felt moral issue, and that was something that Israelis felt across the political spectrum when the pictures emerged of people killed in the chemical attack, given the Jewish people’s history of being gassed in the Holocaust,” said Daniel Shapiro, who until January was the US ambassador to Israel and still lives there.
Israelis in just days have raised hundreds of thousands of shekels for the victims; fundraisers have explicitly invoked Holocaust imagery.
“No Jew can stay silent as children are being gassed in the streets of Syria,” IsraelGives says on its web page.
The sheriff is back in town.
Israelis were frustrated by the Obama administration’s hesitancy in confronting Assad.
In 2013, President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons would trigger an attack. But when Syria crossed the line, instead of launching an attack, Obama coordinated a deal with Russia under which Syria would divest itself of its chemical weaponry. It now appears clear to the United States and its allies that Syria’s divestment was more fraud than fact.
Trump while campaigning for the presidency appeared to want an even further retreat. His sole conceptualization of Syrian President Bashar Assad until last week was as an ally in combating Islamic State terrorists, an embrace that Obama, however feckless his chemical weapons retreat was, forcefully rejected. Trump officials said last week that they were ready to reverse stated Obama administration policy that any resolution to the Syria conflict must include the removal of Assad.
That worried Israelis – most prominently Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman – who were concerned that a resurgent Assad would allow Israel’s deadliest enemies, Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, a foothold on Israel’s border with Syria.
Trump over the last three days did a 180 on Assad – “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” the president said the day after the chemical attack — and so, commensurately, have Israelis warmed to Trump.
“American leadership is once again credible,” Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, until last year the director of policy at the Israeli Defense Ministry, told Israel Radio. “When you use nerve gas against a civilian population, the message is clear.”
Netanyahu in his praise for Trump said the message should resonate as far as Iran and North Korea. The prime minister and his government continue to see the 2015 nuclear deal Obama negotiated with Iran, trading sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program, as a license for Iran and its proxies to continue its regional interventionism.
Israel “hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere,” Netanyahu said.
Andrew Tabler, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who spent years in Syria, said in a media call that the chief concern for Israel and America’s Sunni Arab allies was what was “baked into” the nuclear deal: “That Iran could use rump governments in Iraq and Syria to shoot people into the region into submission” while the principal US concern was sustaining the Iran deal.
What’s not predictable
- Do Israeli jets still get to take out potential threats without triggering a Russian response?
An ally of the Assad regime, Russia was furious at the missile attack and suspended its “deconfliction” agreement with the United States – one under which the two nations give each other prior notice of any military action, particularly from the air, so there’s no risk of an inadvertent clash.
Russia has a similar arrangement with Israel; does that go by the wayside? Israel as recently as last month sent jets into Syria to stop the smuggling of Syrian arms to Hezbollah.
Gilad, speaking on Israel Radio, said he was confident that Russia would continue to allow Israel to act.
“I don’t think there’s any threat on Israeli action as long as it in the defense of Israel’s interests,” he said.
- Is Israel more of a target than before?
Israel’s most potent threat is Hezbollah, which has positioned tens of thousands of missiles throughout Lebanon since the last Hezbollah-Israel war in 2006. Israeli brass believes Hezbollah could be positioning itself for another Israel war, if only as a pretext to draw attention away from Syria, where its alliance with Iran and the Assad regime has taken hits.
Hezbollah called the missile strike an “idiotic” action that was “in service” to Israel and predicted that it would increase tension
- Russia’s mad? But wait, we like Russia.
Netanyahu has gone to great lengths to cultivate Russia, in part because Israel sees Russia as the likeliest agent to broker a final status deal that would keep Iran and Hezbollah as far as possible from Syria’s southwest, where Israel’s border is.
He endured a tongue lashing on Thursday from Russian President Vladimir Putin just for intimating that Syria is responsible for the chemical attack. (Russia insists there is no proof yet.)
The closeness of Trump and his team to Russia – in Washington, increasingly seen as a burden, as it engenders a string of scandals – is seen as a plus in Israel, where it was hoped Trump would leverage his friendship with Putin as a means of containing Assad, Hezbollah and Iran
“Israel still sees Trump as a dealmaker with Russia, and they want to know if Trump drives a wedge between Russia and Iran-Hezbollah-Syria,” David Makovsky, the Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute, said in an interview.
- That Sunni alliance thing … it’s complicated
The conventional wisdom in Washington after the attack is that Trump has revivified the US profile in Israel among the United States’ Sunni Arab allies.
Except as much as Assad is despised among Sunni Arabs, both for his belonging to the secretive Alawite sect and his alliance with Shiite actors like Iran and Hezbollah, direct U.S. intervention is not necessarily popular.
Critically, Egypt – whose leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, just this week lavished praise on Trump – was less than enthusiastic about the strike.
“Egypt affirms the importance of sparing Syria and the Middle East the dangers of crisis escalation in order to preserve the safety of the nations that comprise it,” its Foreign Ministry said Friday, according to Al-Ahram. “We see the necessity for swift action to end the armed conflict in Syria to preserve the lives of the Syrian people through a commitment by all Syrian parties for an immediate cease-fire and a return to negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations.”
Egyptian unhappiness could hamper Netanyahu’s bid to use Egypt as a conduit to new peace deals with other moderate Arab states.
“Sisi sees Assad rightly or wrongly as part of the battle against Islamic extremism,” said Shapiro, who is now a senior visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel.
“There’s also the more traditional Egyptian value of not wanting to see any foreign intervention in an Arab state lest it be directed at Egypt,” he said. “And Egypt has in recent months gone a bit closer to the Russians, and Russians have participated in counter ISIS operations in western Egypt. That creates some potential tensions between Egypt and its strategic partner Israel and Sisi and his new friend Donald Trump.”
- It’s open-ended – which means, duh, we don’t know how it will end.
Tabler cautioned against seeing long-term consequences because of a single strike; no one knows yet where Trump will take US involvement.
“This strike is not the same as the invasion of Iraq in 2003,” he said.
Israel initially was supportive of the US action in Iraq, but soon grew apprehensive as the Bush administration neglected increasing threats from Iran and its war radicalized Sunni Arabs in the region.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the strike was a one-off.
“I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or our posture relative to our military activities in Syria today,” he said in a media availability.
That did not assuage concerns among Democrats and even some Republicans in Congress, who called for consultations with Congress ahead of any further action.
“Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on Twitter: “I’m deeply concerned the strike in Syria could lead the U.S. back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East.”
In Israeli eyes, Trump’s Tomahawks correct the course of history
Surprise attack on Syrian base is welcomed in Jerusalem, which saw Obama’s failure to respond to Assad as emboldening Iran. But it also attests to US president’s unpredictability
By Raphael Ahren The Times of Israel
From an Israeli perspective, US President Donald Trump corrected the course of history in ordering airstrikes against the Syrian regime late Thursday.
The mere fact that the global superpower took action in the face of Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians — regardless of what military goals the operation accomplished — sends a powerful message that will reverberate beyond Syria, leaders and officials in Jerusalem said.
“In both word and action, President Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement backing the airstrikes on the regime-held Shayrat Airfield, north of Damascus. “Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called the missile strike “an important, necessary and moral message by the free world, led by the United States,” that shows it “will not tolerate the war crimes of the horrific regime of Bashar Assad.”
Chiming in, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz also praised the attack, delivered via some 60 Tomahawk missiles fired from two US destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, as “an important step both morally and strategically and a clear signal to the axis led by Iran.”
The Israel Defense Forces released its own statement, saying it, too, supported the cruise missile strike and had informed Washington of its backing.
Israel’s security establishment was updated by the US ahead of the missile strike, officials said.
In the eyes of Israeli security officials, Trump’s surprise resort to force stands in sharp contrast to the policies of former US president Barack Obama, who had declared the use of chemical weapons to be a “red line” but then did nothing when Assad crossed it in 2013, with chemical weapons strikes east and southwest of Damascus that killed 1,429 people, including 426 children.
Had Obama sent just a single jet to Damascus to drop a bag of water on Assad’s palace, history would have taken a different course, a top security official said this week. It was the US failure to enforce its own red line, more than letting the horrendous war crime go unpunished, that emboldened not only Assad but also his allies in Tehran.
Reassured that Obama was reluctant to use military force, the Iranians could drive a hard bargain in the nuclear talks that ended in the 2015 Vienna agreement, which Israel condemned as a historic mistake.
Despite the former president’s repeated statement that “all options are on the table” if no deal was struck, once Obama had made plain his aversion to being bogged down in another Middle East military confrontation, the Iranian negotiators were reassured that he wanted a deal at all costs, and they succeeded in signing what some Israeli security officials termed a “dream deal” for Tehran.
Indeed, Obama’s 2013 decision not to use military force against Assad’s regime despite its use of chemical weapons “was a pivotal moment for the entire region,” Chagai Tzuriel, the director-general of the Intelligence Ministry, told The Times of Israel last month. “This moment changed everything.”
Israel would welcome a greater American involvement, Tzuriel said at the time, and Friday morning’s strike on the Shayrat airfield’s hangars, control tower and ammunition areas was indeed greeted enthusiastically by Israeli politicians across the political spectrum.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said it sent a “right and correct” message to Assad; Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid said: “better late than never.”
Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren hailed a “new sheriff’ in town, saying the attack “sends a message to the entire world that America’s back,” and that “our common enemies need to fear.”
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon praised Trump for passing his first serious test by assuming “the important ethical role of a superpower, which the US had given up during the last years.”
“[The Americans] are telling their allies in the Middle East, you are not alone,” added Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser, on Friday morning in a phone briefing organized by the Israel Project.
Trump’s change of heart: ‘flexibility’ or unpredictability?
Friday’s attack impressively shows that the US under Trump dropped his predecessor’s “leading from behind” policy and will not hesitate to use military force when it feels it is justified. That is certainly welcome news from an Israeli government perspective.
But there are two other aspects Jerusalem needs to take into consideration. While possibly deterring Assad from further chemical weapons attacks, Trump’s Tomahawks created a new reality in a volatile war theater on Israel’s border that includes not only the Syrian army but also various rebel groups, Hezbollah, and the Russian army.
At this point, no one knows how the various actors are going to respond to what Damascus condemned as an American “act of aggression” and Moscow called a violation of international law.
Developments in the Syrian war theater are the most pressing concern of Israel’s security apparatus, Tzuriel, of the Intelligence Ministry, said last month.
“Syria is the key arena, because it’s a microcosm of everything: world powers, such as Russia and the US; regional actors such as Iran and Turkey; and rival groups within the country, such as the Assad regime, the opposition, the Kurds and the Islamic State,” the former Mossad official added. “Whatever happens in Syria today will greatly impact the region, and beyond, for years to come.”
Furthermore, Israeli policymakers should take note of the administration’s quick change of heart regarding Syria, which could translate into surprise moves on Israel. Just last week, US top diplomats indicated they were not keen on picking a fight with Assad.
“You pick and choose your battles,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on March 30. “And when we’re looking at this it’s about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.”
Few people imagined that one week later US aircraft would fire 59 precision-guided missiles at a Syrian regime air base.
While Israeli officials in 2013 wanted to see Obama enforce his red line, Trump vocally called on the president not to attack Syria. Any such move is not in America’s strategic interest, the Manhattan real estate developer argued at the time.
“I like to think of myself as a very flexible person. I don’t have to have one specific way, and if the world changes, I go the same way, I don’t change. Well, I do change and I am flexible, and I’m proud of that flexibility,” Trump said on Wednesday, adding that his “attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”
It has been said many time that Trump is unpredictable. His decision to launch a surprise strike at Syria — a key ally of Russia, a country he was said to be close to — powerfully underlines this assessment.
As the US administration forges ahead in its effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, expecting goodwill gestures from both sides, Jerusalem might be well-advised to take note of the president’s “flexibility,” capacity for change, and willingness to make surprise moves.
The Burden of the 1967 Victory
By Prof. Efraim Inbar Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/burden-1967-victory/
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Considering the ways Israel’s opponents have changed over the decades, the collective yearning among Israelis for a decisive, 1967-style victory is unrealistic. The false hope for such success impedes clarity of thinking and causes the Israeli public to lose confidence in both the military and the political leadership. The only approach that can succeed in Israel’s current conflicts is a patient, attritional, repetitive use of force. Israelis should take comfort that time is on Israel’s side.
In June 1967, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) waged war alone against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. It achieved a stunning victory in six days. The military skill demonstrated by the Israelis was remarkable – so much so that battles from the Six-Day War continue to be studied at war colleges around the world.
Israel’s military achievement had another extremely important effect. It went a long way towards convincing the Arab world that Israel cannot be easily destroyed by military force; Israel is a fact the Arabs must learn to live with. Indeed, ten years later – after Egypt had lost another war to Israel, this one in 1973 – its president, Anwar Sadat, came to Jerusalem (November 1977) to offer peace.
The swift and decisive victory of 1967 became the standard to which the IDF aspired – and the kind of victory expected by Israeli society in future engagements. This is problematic, considering the ways Israel’s opponents have changed and the means they now deploy.
The unrealistic anticipation that victories on the scale of 1967 should be the end result of any military engagement hampers clear thinking and impedes the adoption of appropriate strategy and tactics. Moreover, it encourages what is often an impossible hope for a quick end to conflict. In the absence of a clear-cut and speedy outcome, Israelis lose confidence in the political as well as the military leadership.
Israelis, many of whom have limited military experience, still long for decisive victories in the Gaza and South Lebanon arenas. The wars in which the IDF has participated so far in the twenty-first century, which appeared to end inconclusively, left many Israelis with a sense of unease. They miss the victory photographs of the 1967 war.
Slogans of the Israeli right, such as “Let the IDF Win”, reflect this frustration. Similarly, the left claims that Judea and Samaria can be safely ceded to a Palestinian state because these territories can be reconquered, as they were in 1967, if they become a base for hostile actors. The calls for the destruction of Hamas also bear witness to a lack of understanding of the limits of military power.
But grand-scale conventional war, in which the IDF faces large armored formations and hundreds of air fighters as it did in 1967, is less likely today. The 1982 Lebanon War was the last to display such encounters. Since 1982, Israel has scarcely fought any state in a conventional war.
To a significant extent, the statist dimension in the Arab-Israeli conflict has itself disappeared. Egypt and Jordan are at peace with Israel. Syria and Iraq are torn by domestic conflict and are hardly in a position to challenge Israel militarily. Many other Arab countries, such as the Gulf and Maghreb states, have reached a de facto peace with Israel, an orientation buttressed by the common Iranian threat.
For the past three decades, Israel has been challenged primarily by sub-state actors, such as Hamas (a Sunni militia) and Hezbollah (a Shiite militia). Such organizations have a different strategic calculus from that of states. Because of their religious-ideological zeal, they are more difficult to deter than states, and their learning curve is much slower.
It took Egypt three military defeats (1948, 1956, and 1973) and a war of attrition (1968-70) within a span of 25 years to give up the goal of destroying Israel. In contrast, Hezbollah has been fighting Israel for a longer period and remains as devoted as ever to its goal of the elimination of the Jewish state. The heavy price inflicted upon Gaza since 2007 by the Israeli military has not changed the strategic calculus of the Hamas leadership, which still aspires to Israel’s demise.
Hamas and Hezbollah do not possess arsenals of tanks and air fighters, which would be easy targets for Israel. The decentralized structure of their military organizations does not present points of gravity that can be eliminated by swift and decisive action. Moreover, their use of civilian populations to shield missile launchers and military units – a war crime – makes IDF advances cumbersome and difficult due to slower troop movement in urban areas and the need to reduce collateral damage among civilians. Urbanization among Israel’s neighbors has greatly reduced the empty areas that could have been used for maneuvering and outflanking. The use of the subterranean by Israel’s foes, be it in Gaza or South Lebanon, is another new element that slows advances.
It is naïve to believe the IDF can or should win quickly and decisively every time it has to flex its muscles. Yitzhak Rabin warned several times during his long career against the expectation of a “once and for all” victory. The defeat of Israel’s new opponents requires a different strategy: attrition.
Israel is engaged in a long war of attrition against religiously motivated enemies who believe both God and history are on their side. All the IDF can do is occasionally weaken their ability to harm Israel and create temporary deterrence. In Israeli parlance, this is called “mowing the grass” – an apt metaphor, as the problem always grows back.
The patient, repetitive use of force is not glamorous, but it will eventually do the trick. Unfortunately, many Israelis do not understand the particular circumstances of the great 1967 victory. They have lost patience and do not realize that time is, in fact, on Israel’s side.
If Palestinians Are Serious about Peace, “Martyr” Violence Should Not Pay – David Makovsky, Ghaith al-Omari and Lia Weiner (Washington Post)
Any progress on trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must first address the lack of trust that exists between the two sides. For Israelis, Palestinian incitement to violence casts serious doubt as to whether the Palestinians are serious about peace. Despite Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, official PA pronouncements still refer to Palestinians who murder Israelis as “martyrs.”
The egregious practice of making payments to families of Palestinians who engage in clear acts of terrorism and to prisoners convicted of such acts stands out severely in this regard. Every year, the Palestinian Authority spends more than $300 million, or 7.6% of its total budget, in support of two foundations dedicated to assisting families of “martyrs” and Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons.
There is an entire official compensation apparatus that rewards prisoners who spent more time in Israeli prisons with official positions upon their release, as well as other forms of economic preferential treatment. After persistent international pressure on the PA to cease the payments, Mahmoud Abbas transferred the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs from the PA to the PLO, which Abbas also chairs. PA budgetary reports last June state that $137.45 million was transferred to the PLO in support of the program.
Palestinians argue that the bulk of these prisoners and “martyrs” are political prisoners and innocent bystanders. Israel vehemently denies that it detains people for their political views, but rather only does so for clear-cut involvement in the planning or execution of violent acts. There are clear-cut cases: A Palestinian who deliberately shoots, stabs or rams an Israeli with murderous intent cannot be considered a political prisoner by any stretch of that term.
As a first and immediate step, the Palestinian Authority must end payment in such clear-cut cases. Destitute family members can still receive regular assistance, as can any other Palestinians in need, but they should not receive preferential treatment in a way that rewards acts of terrorism.
Such a move is necessary in order to signal to the U.S. that the Palestinian side can make difficult decisions in the pursuit of peace. Focusing on this issue during the upcoming Trump-Abbas meeting could put U.S.-Palestinian relations on sounder footing.
It is also necessary in order to begin rebuilding trust with Israel. It is necessary to make it clear to the Palestinian public that peace and terrorism are incompatible.
David Makovsky and Ghaith al-Omari are senior fellows at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Makovsky was a former senior adviser to the U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Al-Omari was an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team and then-Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Lia Weiner is a senior at Yale University.
Welcoming Shabbat with Adon Olam by Cantor Shai Abramson and the IDF Choir