By Oded Eran: The visit to Israel by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi can be seen as a milestone in an international relations process that has afforded Israel a new set of formal and informal alliances. Israel’s ties with India and China represent a major shift in the foreign relations component of Israel’s overall strategic balance, although the two rising Asian powers are very different from each other and pose different dilemmas for Israel. Navigating between China and India, monitoring their different economic clocks, and juxtaposing these trends with global developments requires skilled and artful coordination on diplomatic, economic, security, public, and private sectors levels. All these sectors in Israel will be heavily engaged by the country’s intricate relations with India and China.
By David Pollock: President Trump returned from Jerusalem and Bethlehem with no agreements in hand. But behind the scenes, a new poll reveals that much of the Palestinian public actually agrees with several key points Trump raised.
The poll was conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, and comprised face-to-face interviews May 16-27 among a representative sample of 1,540 Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, under my overall direction. Its surprising findings offer unexpected room for political and diplomatic maneuvering, and perhaps even some hope of progress, during the coming months.
The most startling finding concerns the Palestinian Authority bonuses paid to convicted terrorists. Israel, the U.S. Congress, and lately the Trump administration have all decried this “pay for slay” policy. The PA has claimed that popular pressure compels it to persist in this practice. In fact, the survey shows that two-thirds of Palestinians think “the PA should give prisoners’ families normal social benefits like everybody else, not extra payments based on their sentences or armed operations.” Among West Bankers, the exact figure is 65.9%; among Gazans, 67.2%.
By Ben Cohen: The ongoing Israeli control of the West Bank hands the Palestinians a decisive strategic advantage they will never concede, and therefore Israel needs to make clear to the international community that the “occupation…is part of the price Israel has to pay to live here,” a leading Israeli strategic analyst argued in a newly-published paper.
The paper — authored by Max Singer, an expert at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel — comes at a time of growing apprehension over the viability of a “two-state solution,” within the framework of which Israel would hand over most of the West Bank and conceivably parts of eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinians. Since taking office earlier this year, US President Donald Trump has indicated on several occasions that he is among the concept’s doubters, saying that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators should not feel bound by the formula in shaping a final peace agreement.
By Zev Chafets: Forty years ago this week, the dynamic, vibrant, entrepreneurial modern Israeli economy was born, though nobody knew it at the time.
It was May 17, 1977. Israelis crowded around their black-and-white television screens for the national election results. At exactly 10 p.m., the face of Haim Yavin, the normally unflappable anchorman of Israel’s lone TV channel, appeared, looking very flapped indeed. “Ma’hapach!” he intoned, a variation of the usual Hebrew word for “revolution.” It was a softer term Yavin had come up with on his way to the studio. He later explained that he hadn’t wanted to cause panic.
In the span of just a few days, U.S. President Donald Trump appears to have met both his first true foreign policy crisis and his most challenging bilateral summit more smoothly than many had feared he might. Whether this turns out to be anything more than a symbolic victory, and whether it has an effect in the fight against terrorism and the effort to rein in North Korea, will depend on what he and his administration do next.
Trump was clearly justified in Thursday’s decision to order cruise missile strikes on Syria’s Shayrat airbase, from where the regime had launched a sarin gas attack on civilians earlier in the week. As a somber Trump noted, the world could not let such a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention — not to mention civilized norms — go unpunished. The strikes themselves were targeted and proportional; the U.S. military says that Russian personnel at the airbase were warned ahead of time to avoid sparking a wider clash. Allies welcomed the move, and it should go some way toward deterring any future use of chemical weapons on the Syrian battlefield.
In over five years as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, I found no issue more impervious to solutions than Gaza. We were constantly preventing, managing or responding to crises — trying to head off terror attacks by Hamas and others, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, negotiating ceasefires and working to alleviate human suffering.
I also learned that Gaza wars follow a kind of routine. Hamas upgrades its attack capabilities, and tensions build. Both sides prefer to avoid an escalation, but some incident, perhaps unintended, leads Hamas to increase the rate of rockets fired into Israel. Eventually, Israel deems the provocations intolerable, and launches a heavier response, such as when it conducted a targeted strike on Hamas military wing chief Ahmed Jabari at the start of Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. A full-on conflict ensues, with ceasefire negotiations competing with Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, Israeli airstrikes and calls from the Israeli public for a ground invasion to “finish the job.”
Unhappily, there are growing signs that this cycle is about to start anew…
By Stephen M. Flatow: Israel critic Peter Beinart has announced that when his children “near adulthood, I’ll encourage them to visit the West Bank.” Why? “So they can see for themselves what it means to hold millions of people…without free movement or due process,” he wrote in his column for The Forward.
The Beinart children are in for quite a surprise.
In his various articles and media appearances, Papa Beinart regularly accuses Israel of occupying and oppressing the Palestinians. I imagine that’s what the Beinart kids hear at the dinner table, too.
But when the young Beinarts arrive in Judea and Samaria, they will discover that dear old dad wasn’t telling them the whole story. In fact, he wasn’t even telling them a small piece of the story.
By Nicholas Blanford: Having successfully propped up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against an array of armed rebel groups for more than six years, Iran appears to be preparing the ground for a long-term presence in the war-ravaged country, causing rising alarm in neighboring Israel, its bitter foe, and garnering the attention of Washington.
Iran has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to buttress Syria’s economy, oversees a multinational Shiite militia force to bolster Mr. Assad’s flagging army, and trains Syrian militia networks based on Iran’s Basij paramilitary volunteer force.
But Iran’s success and expanding reach into Syria, which serves as Tehran’s vital geopolitical link to its client Hezbollah in Lebanon, has made Syria potentially a key arena if the US wants to undermine Iran’s regional stance, analysts say.
As a consequence, President Trump’s administration has signaled an intention to roll back the Islamic Republic’s influence, not only in Syria but elsewhere in the region.
By Daniel Pipes: “We’re in dire straits,” Jordan’s King Abdullah said half a year ago. After recently completing a week of intensive travels and discussions throughout Jordan, I found no one disagreeing with that assessment. Jordan may no longer be hyper-vulnerable and under siege, as it was in the past, but it does face possibly unprecedented problems.
Created out of thin air by Winston Churchill in 1921 to accommodate British imperial interests, the Emirate of Transjordan, now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, for almost a century has led a precarious existence. Particularly dangerous moments came in 1967, when pan-Arabist pressures led King Hussein to make war on Israel and lose the West Bank; in 1970, when a Palestinian revolt nearly toppled the king; and 1990-1991, when pro-Saddam Hussein sentiments pushed him to join a hopeless and evil cause.
Today’s dangers are manifold. Islamic State lurks in Syria and Iraq, just beyond the border, attractive to a small but real minority of Jordanians. The once-robust trade with those two countries has nearly collapsed — and with it, Jordan’s lucrative transit role. In a region bountiful in oil and gas, Jordan is one of the very few countries to have almost no petroleum resources. City dwellers receive water just one day a week and country dwellers often even less. Tourism has declined, thanks to the Middle East’s notorious volatility. King Abdullah’s recent assertion of authority grates on those demanding more democracy.