Arab states will abandon Israel when Iran threat dies, security expert warns
One of Israel’s leading national security analysts has urged caution in assessing a potential alliance between the Jewish state and the conservative Sunni Arab countries, pointing to the recent abandonment of the Kurds by the international community as a sobering reminder that perceived national interests invariably trump other values like loyalty and shared security.
“Let us suppose the Iranian threat disappears because Israel launches a successful attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities,” wrote Lt. Col. (Res) Mordechai Kedar in a briefing for Israel’s Begin-Sadat Center for Security Studies (BESA). “As a result, war breaks out between Israel and Iran (including Hezbollah), Israel sacrifices hundreds of soldiers and civilians – and the Iranian problem ceases to exist. Will the Arab and Western worlds be grateful to Israel and act to protect its interests?”
“The answer is simple: look to the Kurds,” Kedar – an expert on Syria who spent 25 years with IDF military intelligence – continued. “What happened to them will happen to Israel,” he said, in a reference to last month’s onslaught on Kurdish-held areas by Iranian-backed and Iraqi government forces following the September 25 referendum in which 93 percent of Kurdish voters opted for independence.
“The Kurds fought ISIS, sacrificed their soldiers and people, and were thrown to the wolves once they had outlived their usefulness,” Kedar asserted. “That is exactly what will happen to Israel once it saves the Arab states from the Iranian threat. And why not? The immediate interests of each state, not the moral rights of the Kurds and the Israelis, are what make the world go round.”
“The Kurds expected the world, headed by the US, to stand behind them once ISIS was defeated, remembering their great contribution to that defeat and supporting their demand for independence,” he noted. “Those hopes were dashed very quickly.”
Revived concern over the prospect of a new war with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and the escalation of a bitter of war of words between the Saudi and Iranian regimes have fueled the expectation that Saudi Arabia and its allies and Israel will end their historic enmity. On Thursday, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman described Iran’s “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as “the new Hitler of the Middle East” – echoing the language used by many Israeli and Jewish leaders in their responses to Iran’s frequent threats to eliminate Israel.
“Israel may indeed be the darling of the ‘moderate Sunni axis’ – for as long as there is an Iranian threat,” Kedar wrote. “Once that is gone, the possible fracturing of Iran into ethnic components (on the lines of the former USSR, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia) will obviate the need for good relations with Israel. For this reason, Israel would do well not to give up land for a piece of paper with the word ‘peace’ stamped on it. That paper can easily fly away in the desert wind while the words on it fade in the blazing Middle Eastern sun.”
Kedar argued that in addition to the Kurdish experience, Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan provided “two unassailable confirmations” of the perils of an alliance of short-term convenience.
“The [Egypt-Israel] peace treaty did not stand in [former Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak’s way when he allowed Hamas and its supporters to smuggle arms from Sinai to Gaza,” he wrote. “It was in Mubarak’s interest to bring about a war between Israel and Hamas, because it allowed Israel to do Egypt’s dirty work with the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas). As soon as Sinai became a haven of jihadism and began fighting Egypt, the weapons smuggling from Sinai to Gaza ceased abruptly. In short, the peace between Israel and Egypt exists so long as it suits Egyptian interests.”
On Jordan, Kedar said that “King Abdullah II changed his father’s [the late King Hussein] policies and is a strong backer of the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank with its capital in East Jerusalem. He acts against Israel in every international forum, as if he were one of its greatest enemies. He relates to the peace treaty as an agreement to refrain from war and no more, while enjoying its attendant economic benefits.” (the Algemeiner/WIN)
Assad offers Israel buffer zone along Syrian border
A Kuwaiti newspaper maintains that the Syrian leader proposed a demilitarized zone along Israel’s border. The same publication claims Netanyahu is seeking the elimination of an Iranian presence near the Golan Heights.
Embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad communicated to Russian premiere Vladimir Putin his willingness to establish a demilitarized zone along Syria’s border with Israel in the Golan Heights. The offer was revealed in Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida in a report focusing on Assad’s seemingly impromptu visit last week to Russia.
During the visit, Assad apparently asked Putin to communicate the offer to his Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reported the Jerusalem Post. While Netanyahu responded favorably to the offer, which promised a sizable buffer zone according to an unnamed Israeli source, the Israeli leader vowed to continue pursuing Hezbollah in Syria and to destroy any Iranian facilities within about 25 miles of Israel’s border.
Israel’s border with Syria has remained a problematic region, with fighting from the Syrian civil war occasionally spilling into Israel. Military activity within Syria, including arms movements, by Hezbollah and other factions has also necessitated IDF strikes during the past year, some of which were reportedly carried in the last few weeks. The recent collapse of the Islamic State (ISIS) has also affected the political landscape in the region.
In addition to military actions along the Syrian border, the IDF has also facilitated significant medical relief efforts for Syrian civilians, many of whom have been devastated by the civil war. Until recently, the situation in Syria remained a three-pronged conflict in which Assad’s forces battled rebel factions as well as ISIS.
While Assad’s offer regarding a demilitarized zone on the border on the Golan Heights is reportedly part of a larger agreement to stabilize relations between his nation and Israel, it is also likely that the alleged compact would require Israel to abide by Assad’s continuing rule in Syria. The extent to which Israel is open to this possibility remains unclear, with the Jewish state objecting to recent ceasefire terms in the Syrian civil war that may permit Iran to increase its influence in the region. (WIN)
Netanyahu said to warn Assad: We’ll strike if you let Iran set up bases in Syria
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that Israel will intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war if Assad gives formal permission to Iran to establish a military presence in Syria, Israeli TV reported on Sunday night.
Netanyahu conveyed the message to Assad via a third party, Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) veteran Middle East analyst Ehud Yaari reported.
The warning specified that Israel will depart from the policy of non-intervention it has maintained throughout the six years of the civil war to date, Yaari said, if Assad “invites Iranian forces to establish themselves in Syria via an agreement of any kind.” Iran has provided significant logistical, technical, training and financial support for Assad’s regime and forces, as well as deploying military advisers and some combat troops in Syria. It also arms, trains and funds Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group that has sent thousands of gunmen to fight alongside Assad’s troops.
Thus far, Israel has provided medical and humanitarian aid to victims of the war across its border, has hit back when gunfire has crossed the border, and has used air strikes to target weapons stores and convoys intended for the Hezbollah terrorist organization. But, to date, “there was no direct targeting of the Syrian Army or of Assad,” Yaari noted.
The report noted tellingly that this non-intervention contrasted with previous Israeli policy. In 2006, for instance, Israeli jets broke the sound barrier flying over Assad’s presidential palace in Latakia, in what was seen as a warning to him against supporting Palestinian terrorist groups.
The reference to any formal Syrian “invitation” or “agreement” with Iran, the TV report elaborated, stems from the fact that Iran and Russia have been discussing future arrangements for Syria, under which all foreign forces would have to leave the country, except those which are present by agreement with, or invitation from, Assad. Russia’s forces are engaged in Syria on the basis of such an invitation, and Netanyahu’s aim in issuing the warning “is to deter Assad from issuing” a similar invitation to Iran.
The Iranians, the TV report noted, want to build “a naval base, possibly for submarines, an air base and arms factories for precision weapons.”
Earlier this month, the BBC, citing a Western security official, reported that Iran was setting up a permanent base on a site used by the Syrian army near el-Kiswah, 14 kilometers (8 miles) south of Damascus, and 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Israeli border.
The TV report came days after Netanyahu was quoted telling French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call that Israel sees Iranian activity in Syria as “a target” for its forces, and may carry out strikes against Iranian objectives if its security needs require it.
According to a transcript of their November 19 phone call reported by Israel’s Channel 10 TV, Netanyahu told the French leader that “from now on, Israel sees Iran’s activities in Syria as a target. We will not hesitate to act, if our security needs require us to do so.”
Macron reportedly attempted to reassure the Israeli leader and dissuade him from “hasty” action.
But Netanyahu was adamant, reportedly saying, “The goal must be to minimize Iran’s influence, not only in Lebanon but also in Syria… Israel has tried up until now not to intervene in what is going on in Syria. But after the victory over Islamic State, the situation has changed because the pro-Iranian forces have taken control… From now on, Israel sees Iran’s activities in Syria as a target. We will not hesitate to act, if our security needs require us to do so.”
Netanyahu vowed in a speech last week that Iran would not be allowed to gain a regional foothold. “We have made it clear many times that we will not accept nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands, nor will we allow the establishment of Iranian forces near our border, in the Syrian region in general, or anywhere else,” he said.
Underlining the rising tensions, an Iranian military commander declared on Thursday that any future war in the region would result in the annihilation of Israel. Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, told Iranian reporters that “any new war will lead to the eradication of the Zionist regime.”
On November 21, Netanyahu also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone about a ceasefire deal in the Syrian civil war and the Iranian presence near Israel’s borders, the Prime Minister’s Office said. “The conversation lasted about half an hour and dealt with Syria, and Iran’s attempt to entrench itself in Syria,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. “Netanyahu insisted on Israeli security and reiterated his opposition to Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.”
The call was the latest in a series of high-level contacts between Israel and Russia, amid a dispute between the countries over allowing Iran and Shiite militias backed by Tehran to maintain a foothold in Syria near the Israeli border.
On October 17, Netanyahu met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Jerusalem, where the two men discussed the Islamic Republic’s attempt to establish itself militarily in Syria. “Iran needs to understand that Israel will not allow this,” Netanyahu told Shoigu, according to his office.
According to an unnamed Israeli official, under the Syrian ceasefire deal, militias associated with Iran would be allowed to maintain positions as close as five to seven kilometers (3.1-4.3 miles) to the border in some areas, Reuters reported two weeks ago.
The Israeli Air Force has carried out numerous airstrikes in Syria on weapons convoys bound for the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, though it rarely acknowledges individual raids. (the Times of Israel)
Israel’’s Jewish Fertility Tops Arabs for First Time, Defying ‘Demographic Doom’
New statistics show that the Israeli-Jewish fertility rate this year has surpassed that of the Israeli-Arab population for the first time, defying analysts who have made long-term projections of a Jewish minority in Israel.
At the same time, it remains to be seen whether the numbers will affect the political landscape of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The upward-trending Jewish rate of 3.16 births per woman, and the corresponding downward-trending figure of 3.11 for Israeli Arabs, can lead to more confident policy decisions by the Israeli government, said demographic expert Yoram Ettinger, who published a recent report on the issue.
“In contrast to the stated position of the establishment’s prophets of demographic doom, there is no Arab demographic time bomb; but there is an unprecedented Jewish demographic tailwind,” Ettinger, the former minister for Congressional affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., told JNS.org.
As of September, there were 6.523 million Jews and 1.824 million Arabs living in Israel, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
Ettinger explained that “conventional demography has been systematically mistaken and misleading” when it comes to Israel.
“In 1898, the leading Jewish demographer, Shimon Dubnov, opposed [Theodor] Herzl’s Zionist idea, contending that by 1998, there would be 500,000 Jews in the land of Israel,” he said, adding that in 1944, another renowned Jewish demographer, professor Roberto Bachi, “urged [David] Ben-Gurion to postpone declaration of independence, since 600,000 Jews were not the critical mass required to maintain Jewish majority. He had projected that in 2001, there would be, at best, 2.3 million Jews, a 34-percent minority.”
Asked what the future holds for Israel’s fertility rates, Ettinger responded that demography is not linear, “and therefore the current Jewish edge will not increase, or be sustained, forever.”
Robust Jewish demographic trends, he said, enhance Israel’s economic and military viability, and help squelch Arab hopes to destroy Israel.
Ettinger believes that the 66-percent Jewish majority in the combined areas of Judea and Samaria (commonly known as the West Bank) and pre-1967 Israel, along with “a fertility tailwind and a huge untapped aliyah potential,” mean that Israelis will be “more inclined” to reject a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The number of Jews living in Judea and Samaria has increased by 23 percent during the past five years, to a population of more than 420,000, according to a study released in March by westbankjewishpopulationstats.com. Ettinger’s own report states that 1.8 million Arabs live in Judea and Samaria, well below the figure of 3 million that is claimed by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
Ettinger asserted that the more aware Israelis become about the current strength of Jewish demography, the more willing they will be to eventually annex Judea and Samaria, which he believes is the historical, religious, cultural and strategic core of the land of Israel.
Yet Efraim Inbar, president of the recently established Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, said that the new demographic figures do not significantly change realities on the ground.
“Even if Israel’s Jewish fertility rate is higher than the Arabs in Israel or in the West Bank, the demographics of the region will not change rapidly, leaving 1.5-2 million Arabs, mostly living in the cities of Area A (which is under the full civil and security control of the Palestinian Authority),” Inbar said.
“The main question does not revolve around birth rates, but whether it is wise for the Jewish state to incorporate in its midst such a large hostile population,” he added, referring to the Palestinian Arabs.
Meanwhile, according to statistics presented at the annual conference of the Israeli Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine, Israel has the highest fertility rate (3.1) among countries in the 35-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Ettinger is also optimistic regarding the prospects for continued Jewish immigration to Israel, particularly from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, France, the UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Argentina.
His report noted that in 2017, Israel’s fertility rate was higher than those of most Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Syria and that the rate in Palestinian-controlled territories went from 5 births per woman in 2000 to around 3 in 2016.
Ettinger pointed out that Arab demography is hurt by Palestinian emigration from Israel and the disputed territories, particularly in light of intra-Palestinian fighting between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization. (JNS)
Government reaches compromise over Sabbath work impasse
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reached a deal with his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, amid growing tensions over public work on the Jewish day of rest.
According to the outline of the agreement, the government will propose a law maintaining the status quo with regard to Shabbat observance in Israel. Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2) reported that the legislation will allow the mini-markets in Tel Aviv to remain open on Shabbat and will ensure no disruption to weekday train service (meaning maintenance work can be carried out on Shabbat).
The status quo will also ensure that league soccer games will continue to be played on Shabbat.
In return, the government will work to pass an amendment to a constitutional Basic Law, which will allow Yaakov Litzman — who resigned as health minister earlier in the day in protest at work on the railway line on Shabbat — to serve as deputy minister in the ministry with no minister serving above him.
This deputy minister arrangement used to be the case but is an arrangement the High Court of Justice has ruled unlawful under current law.
Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party had been loathe to become a full minister, due to his community’s reluctance to grant full legitimacy to a secular Jewish state. But a 2015 court ruling forced him to seek and receive rabbinic approval to become a full minister. Returning to a deputy position would allow Litzman to fulfill his duties without being party to all government decisions.
Under the deal, the government will work to pass legislation allowing him to run the ministry as a deputy minister.
At the suggestion of Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, his Likud colleague Welfare Minister Haim Katz — who also serves as the state’s top labor regulator — will make decisions on future national works on Shabbat, based on several criteria including safety, traditional values and the disruption to public life in Israel.
Netanyahu immediately tweeted that his government was the best for Israel.
“The Likud-led Government is the best Government for the State of Israel. The coalition is strong and stable. We will continue to work together for the citizens of Israel,” he wrote.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri from the Shas party sought to portray the agreement as a victory for the ultra-Orthodox parties.
“We succeeded in reaching an agreement regarding the mini-markets and other subjects,” Deri said. “This is a Jewish state and most citizens want to feel Shabbat in the streets and in their cities.”
Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu had to cancel the weekly meeting of coalition party leaders after Litzman resigned his position and Deri skipped a cabinet meeting, both protesting government bodies working on Shabbat.
Litzman followed through on a threat he made to quit if maintenance work on the railways was carried out on Saturday. Deri acted apparently after learning that a bill giving him power to decide which mini-market shops can open on Saturdays was taken off the agenda of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which must approve the bill before it can advance to a parliamentary vote.
Netanyahu reportedly held individual talks with his coalition leaders instead.
In a video statement, Litzman explained that he could not countenance the “state-sanctioned public desecration of Shabbat.” He tendered his resignation to Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem before the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Last month the High Court of Justice rejected a petition that would prevent Tel Aviv mini-markets from operating on Shabbat, infuriating ultra-Orthodox lawmakers who vowed to bypass the court with fresh Knesset legislation.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin of the ruling Likud party is reportedly planning to propose a watered-down version of the mini-market bill. (the Times of Israel)
US Jewish leaders give Netanyahu short list for Jewish Agency head
The US heads of the Jewish Agency and Jewish Federations of North America have given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a list of at least six candidates they deem worthy to succeed Natan Sharansky as Agency chairman, sources with knowledge of the thinking of the leadership of JFNA and lay leadership of the Agency told The Jerusalem Post exclusively on Sunday.
The list includes Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz; opposition leader Isaac Herzog; Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai; Consul-General in New York Dani Dayan; Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer; and former ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor.
“These names are believed to be acceptable to both the Federations and Netanyahu,” the sources said.
Agency board of governors chairman Michael Siegal, JFNA president Jerry Silverman and JFNA Israel and overseas vice president Rebecca Caspi approved the names and asked Netanyahu for his nominee for the job.
The candidate agreed on by Netanyahu and Jewish leaders will be brought to a vote when the board of governors convenes in Jerusalem in February and will be sworn in at June’s Agency assembly.
The sources emphasized the sensitivity of the post amid clashes between Netanyahu and Diaspora leaders over egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall and the chief rabbinate’s control over conversion.
Steinitz was thought to have the prestigious job in hand, but his candidacy may have been harmed by criminal investigations of two former advisers. While in the past it might have helped Netanyahu to clear a space in his cabinet, he currently wants to minimize turmoil there.
If Steinitz left, it was thought that Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis could be promoted to energy minister and coalition chairman David Bitan to Akunis’s current post. But Netanyahu now wants to keep Bitan as head of the coalition to keep it stable and avoid early elections.
The surprising candidacy of Dayan, a former settler leader, has been advanced recently after he proved himself an effective advocate for North American Jewry. One US Jewish leader described him as “a quick learner” and another said “he has been very different from what we expected and feared.”
Dayan said he was not dealing with the issue, that no one had spoken to him about it and that his appointment for his current job ends in August 2019 with the possibility of a one-year extension.
One source said Dayan could be an easier sell than Dermer, who has focused his ambassadorship on the White House and other American politicians and has been criticized for not doing enough outreach to liberal American Jews.
Herzog’s associates said they were not familiar with, but not surprised by, the US Jewish leaders putting him on such a list.
Sources familiar with the thinking of the American Jewish leadership said they did not expect Netanyahu to have a problem with appointing his opposition leader, because their relationship has remained positive despite running against each other for the premiership.
A source at JFNA said officially that the organization’s leadership had not formally submitted a list of potential Jewish Agency chairmen, but had been party to general conversations about them. (Jerusalem Post)
First female tank combat soldiers to be deployed
After eight intense months and amid fierce opposition to the initiative, the first group of female tank combat recruits will complete their training in a week, and for the first time a female tank unit will patrol the border.
The female tank fighters began their basic combat training in March together with the IDF’s co-ed Caracal Battalion. Fifteen soldiers began basic training but two withdrew during the first week.
After basic training, the 13 remaining fighters transferred to the tank training base in Shizafon, southern Israel, and were divided into squads, each headed by a senior tank commander.
Their training was conducted using the Merkava Mark III tank.
A senior Ground Forces officer explained the women’s training was unlike the usual tank training (squad-platoon-company maneuvers) but rather focused on the basic tank roles. The reason being that the female soldiers will be stationed on Israel’s peaceful borders and will not join the fighting IDF tank brigades.
He further explained that the female fighters will be defending Israel’s southern borders, and in the event they will be required to return fire, it will be from stationary positions.
In the coming month, the 13 fighters will be absorbed into the IDF Southern Territorial Division and divided into three tank squads.
The IDF will then determine how well they are performing their assigned duties and whether the investment is worth it for the army. Only then will a decision be made whether to continue drafting women to the tank units.
In any case, the IDF stressed, even if the program is continued, there will be no female tank fighters in Lebanon and Gaza, nor will there be co-ed tanks but rather all-female tank squads.
Among the opponents to the project is Brig. Gen. (ret.) Avigdor Kahalani who argued that “There is no reason in the world to place women in the role of tank fighters, to storm the trenches with a ‘knife between their teeth,’ no reason whatsoever. There are sufficient men who will do the work.”
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yiftach Ron-Tal expressed similar sentiments, saying that “the system has gone mad.” (Ynet News)
Palestinian Double-Dealing Won’t Work Forever
By Jose V. Ciprut BESA Center (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies)
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: By refusing to be Israel’s direct interlocutor, and by turning instead to third parties in the hope of cornering Israel into submission, while also demanding that it be prosecuted for “war crimes,” the PLO manifests inordinate duplicity vis-à-vis Israel. It disqualifies itself entirely from the trust of the Jewish state. The PLO will have to face the consequences of its actions: for, short of imperiling its own legitimacy, no “honest broker” could abet the PLO’s double dealings much longer.
“The General Delegation of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) to the US” – to use its formal name – is located at 1732 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington DC. In the good old days of the Obama administration, the delegation was granted permission to display a flag at that address, a courtesy it has used to declare the building an “Embassy.” This appears to be yet another case of “fake hat, no cattle.” It is a mystery why no one bothers to refute this illegal pretense, phony self-arrogation, abusive self-aggrandizement, and deliberately misleading grandiloquence.
On November 22, 1974, UNGA Resolution 3236 recognized “the right” – not “of Arabs of, or in, Palestine,” not even “of Palestinian Arabs” – but “of the Palestinian people” to self-determination, national independence, and sovereignty “in Palestine” (a “people,” on “its own exclusive land,” as this callously monopolized generic name seeks to suggest). Recognizing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, UNGAR 3236 conferred upon it “observer status” at the UN.
Though it still flies the flag of a non-state, and despite the fact that its “peoplehood” remains a project in the making, the PLO has managed to ratchet up its status at the UN and in UN institutions such as UNESCO and the ICC. Little wonder then that the organization is in no hurry to settle directly with Israel the parameters of the statehood it covets.
This phenomenon does a disservice to genuine peoples, like Catalans and Kurds, who are by far more amply qualified to govern themselves.
The designation “Palestine” for the PLO was adopted by the UN – as recently as 1988 – in acknowledgment of the PLO’s unilateral declaration of “Palestinian independence,” even though the proclaimed Palestinian state has no formal status in the established international system. Yet non-statehood did not disqualify the “State of Palestine” from being “recognized” by developing countries in Africa and Asia (the 21 member countries of the Arab League; the 56 states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; and many formerly communist and “non-aligned” G-77 states, among them) as soon as the PLO declared its “independence” – without a referendum.
Beyond tailored lies designed to promote “Palestine” as an entity that it is not, what the PLO seems to need right now is self-sufficiency and well-governed societal stability. That combination would be conducive to modern democratic rule that can integrate rival factions, disarm rival militias, and steer a viable economy with a capacity to generate – and to redistribute – income fairly to its geographically, culturally, and traditionally disparate tribal subjects.
Despite the fact that a “State of Palestine” does not exist, it was, by September 14, 2015, already “recognized” by 136 (70.5%) of the 193 member states of the UN and two non-member states. The label does not guarantee Palestine’s viability as a functional entity until and unless it can also reach a “mutually just and durable peace” agreement with the democratic Jewish state of Israel, with which it must sincerely want to coexist. The sad realities on the ground indicate that the conditions for such mutual concordance and fraternal coexistence are not only nonexistent right now but unattainable for the foreseeable future, owing to the persistent absence of a shared ethical foundation.
The PLO can no longer credibly pretend to be amenable to negotiating peaceful coexistence with Israel at the same time that it refuses direct contact with it; waits for “an acceptable final deal” to be served up by a third party; and instructs yet another third party to prosecute its future peace partner for “serious war crimes” – in utter disregard of binding agreements to the contrary long known to all the stakeholders.
One cannot pretend to be ready in good faith to engage in peace negotiations with a putative future partner whom one formally asks the ICC to pursue and condemn for matters that should be resolved through direct negotiation. One must not expect to continue duping all of the parties all of the time by simultaneously undertaking actions and contradictory counteractions. One should not abuse the generous tolerance shown for too long by an honest broker whose patience is not endless. And one most certainly should not get on one’s high horse by suggesting that the foreseeable – and lawful – closure of PLO headquarters in the US capital as a result of the PLO’s defiance of the law of the land would result in the PLO’s irreversible discontinuation of all peace talks to be held via US mediation. Times have changed. The PLO’s duplicity, at long last, just might blow up in its face.
The Middle East is transforming. Lebanon’s double-speak about the need to keep its “South” aligned with the UN Resolution’s exigencies (“no militias”) while also asking its troops not to provoke a conflict with Hezbollah or a war with Israel; Saudi Arabia’s labeling of Hezbollah as a terror group; the Arab League’s recognition of Iran as a warmonger, exporter of terror, and meddler in regional countries’ internal affairs; Qatar’s role in the Gulf’s disquiet; Iran’s opportunistic pursuits and direct threats to Israel’s longevity; Assad’s gratitude to Moscow for “saving [whatever little is left of] Syria” are not good omens for stable peace or sustainable prosperity in this fragile, volatile, and divided region.
For the moment, the PLO’s US office will not be closed. If it knows what’s good for it, the PLO would be well advised henceforth to behave honestly.
Jose V. Ciprut is a conflict analyst, social systems scientist, and international political economist.
Palestinian Unity Process Goes Nowhere Fast – Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
On instructions from Egypt, delegates from the various Palestinian groups showed up in Cairo last week to discuss the “historic” reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. But nothing dramatic was achieved. When the formal report summing up the conference was released, it was clear that while the unity talks had not collapsed, there had been no substantive progress either.
More than a month after the original reconciliation document was signed in Cairo, the PA still has not lifted the sanctions it imposed on Gaza – the same sanctions that make it difficult to supply electricity to Gaza, that sent thousands of former PA officials into early retirement, and that prevent the transfer of payments for medical treatment and the purchase of medications for Gaza residents. The average Gazan has felt no alleviation of hardship since the agreement was signed.
It is true that Hamas has stopped collecting taxes and customs fees at the Kerem Shalom crossing, but the IDF reported this week that Hamas has instead summoned several hundred merchants and demanded that they pay taxes directly to Hamas on merchandise entering Gaza. Overall, the impression is that Hamas is eager to give up civilian control of Gaza, and the PA is in no hurry to take on this task.
At root, there is little true national unity between the Palestinians in the West Bank and their “brethren” in Gaza. Those in the West Bank always regarded the Gazans as somewhat ignorant and extremist; unification with them is no great dream. Meanwhile, PA security coordination with Israel in the West Bank has gone back to full strength. The PA is making arrests, preventing terror attacks, and working against Hamas’ political activity and its recruiting and financing system.