January 30, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Don't Ignore Kushner's Quiet Mideast Gains - Ahmed Charai (National Interest)
    Jared Kushner, who supervises America's Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, recognizes that Iran now matters more to the Arabs than Palestine.
    With Iran and Islamic militants threatening the survival of major Arab states, many Arab leaders have quietly decided to align with Israel - dialing down their interest in the Palestinian drama.
    Consider that President Trump's plan to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem did not touch off huge protests in Arab capitals or angry editorials in the Arab press.
    Kushner realizes that more than 60% of Arabs are too young to remember the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel.
    As a result, younger Arabs largely accept Israel's existence as a settled fact, and generally see trading with its prosperous economy as essential to their own economic growth.
    I know. I have heard them tell me these things in the privacy of their living rooms.
    Kushner has befriended Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Both are seen as disrupters of the status quo and both favor practical solutions over symbolic displays.
    Other Gulf Arab leaders that I have met tell me that they have heard positive things about Kushner and are eager to work with him.
    In short, Kushner's correct reading of this unique moment in Arab politics positions the U.S. to make historic progress in the Middle East.
    The writer, a Moroccan publisher, is a member of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council.

Irish Bill to Boycott Israeli Settlements Runs Afoul of U.S. Laws - Orde F. Kittrie (The Hill)
    A bill to be considered by Ireland's Senate on Tuesday would criminalize trade with Israeli settlements.
    If enacted, U.S. companies with Irish subsidiaries could be confronted with a choice between violating Irish law or violating U.S. Export Administration regulations, which require U.S. firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the U.S. does not sanction.
    In addition, the bill would subject companies to U.S. state-level sanctions and violate EU and international law. For example, the EU has exclusive competence for the common commercial policy and member states are not permitted to adopt unilateral restrictions on imports.
    Moreover, by blaming only Israel for the absence of peace, the Irish bill, like other BDS measures, contributes to Palestinians believing they might not need to negotiate with Israel.
    The writer, a law professor at Arizona State University, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Photos: Glorious Waterfalls in Israel - Yehoshua Halevi (Israel21c)
    See the waterfalls at Gan Hashlosha (Sakhne), the Sa'ar Falls in the Golan Heights, the Banias waterfall, the Gamla waterfall - Israel's highest, and more.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Haley Says Action on Iran Missiles Could Save Nuke Deal
    The U.S. is encouraging other UN Security Council countries to set aside the Iran nuclear deal and focus on cracking down on Iran's missile and other non-nuclear transgressions, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday. Haley suggested that a concerted global effort to punish Iran for violating Security Council resolutions on ballistic missiles could persuade President Trump that it was worthwhile to remain in the nuclear deal. Other countries "are starting to realize, if we don't start talking about the violations, if we don't call them out, then the U.S. is going to say this whole thing is a sham," Haley said. (AP-New York Times)
  • Palestinians to Take Trump's Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan to International Court of Justice - Qais Abu Samra
    The Palestinians will take a U.S.-proposed plan aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Saeb Erekat, a member of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, said Monday. "We seek to get an ICJ endorsement that this plan runs counter to international legitimacy resolutions that east Jerusalem is an occupied territory," he said. (Anadolu-Turkey)
  • Man Who Stabbed 2 at Mall of America Tells Court ISIS Inspired Him - Paul Walsh
    Mahad A. Abdiraham, 20, who slashed two brothers inside Macy's at the Mall of America last fall, declared in court last week, "I went to Mall of America to answer the call for Jihad by the Chief of the Believers, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi - may Allah protect him - and by the Mujahiden of the Islamic State [ISIS]....I am here reaffirming that it was indeed an act of Jihad in the way of Allah."  (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Tells Putin: Israel Will Act to Oppose Iran in Syria and Lebanon - Itamar Eichner
    Following a meeting with Russian President Putin in Moscow on Monday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "Israel views two developments with utmost gravity: First is Iran's efforts to establish a military presence in Syria and second is Iran's attempt to manufacture - in Lebanon - precision weapons against the State of Israel. I made it clear to him that we will not agree to either one of these developments and will act according to need."
        Netanyahu added, "The element currently trying to change the status quo in Syria and Lebanon is one - Iran. This is an element that is actively trying to shift the arena and turn Syria into a military colony."  (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Envoy Greenblatt Views Hamas Terror Tunnels - Herb Keinon
    On Sunday, U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt visited the area in Israel near Gaza for a view of recently uncovered terror tunnels that penetrated into Israel. Following the visit, Greenblatt wrote on Twitter that "Hamas wastes resources on tunnels & rockets to attack Israel, instead of helping the people of Gaza by getting the lights on, the water flowing & the economy growing." Hamas "spews hateful rhetoric & foments a vicious cycle of violence. Gaza deserves better!"  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Abbas Believes His Falsified Version of History - Zalman Shoval
    The Trump administration does not believe that supporting Israel's fundamental demands on security and recognition of Israel as the Jewish state and the Jewish people's fundamental rights to their historical homeland disqualifies the U.S. from the role of impartial mediator.
        In his near-hysterical speeches in Ramallah and Cairo, PA President Mahmoud Abbas arrogantly and unrealistically rejected any American role in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His words practically amounted to spitting in the face of the country that financially enables the existence of the Palestinian Authority he heads.
        Abbas also issued a radical and ignorant falsification of world and Jewish history that served to prevent any possible compromise. Unlike the former Soviet leaders who knowingly rewrote history for their own political gain, Abbas and his associates genuinely believe this falsified version of history. That is why the Palestinians will continue to torpedo any diplomatic initiative that requires any type of practical or ideological concession. It is difficult to see how the obstacle of Palestinian obstinacy can be overcome. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (Israel Hayom)
  • Moving the Palestinian Leadership from Rejection to Recognition - Gregg Roman
    In his Jan. 14 address to the PLO Central Council, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas did not once mention the issues of land, borders, settlements, or occupation - the issues that many in the West assume occupies the Palestinian leadership. His sole target was Zionism, which he called "a colonialist enterprise." In other words, Abbas does not consider the lack of a Palestinian state to be the problem, but the reality of a Jewish state.
        This conflict will end only with the end of Palestinian rejection of the idea of Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish People's indigenous and ancestral homeland. This has informed their consistent repudiation of the creation of a state of their own if it means sharing part of the land with a Jewish sovereign presence.
        Every negotiation towards peace has failed because Palestinian leaders refused recognition of Israel and clauses such as "end of claims" and "end of conflict." Both the 2000 "Clinton Parameters" and the 2007 Annapolis talks broke down because a Palestinian leader refused to end the conflict.
        In other words, the conflict will not end with the creation of a Palestinian state, or a removal of settlements and the presence of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank. The Palestinians wish to pocket all of this and keep the conflict and their claims open, making all of Israel a future target. The writer is director of the Middle East Forum. (The Hill)
  • Turkey Is Threatening the Only Competent Pro-Western Militia in Syria - Michael J. Totten
    The People's Protection Units (YPG) in Rojava, the quasi-independent Kurdish region in northeastern Syria along the Turkish border, along with the multiethnic Syrian Democratic Forces which the YPG dominates, are the only armed groups indigenous to Syria that are willing and able to take on ISIS and win, and they're the only significant armed faction in Syria that isn't ideologically hostile to the West. In October 2017, they finally liberated Raqqa, the "capital" of the ISIS "caliphate," while the Russian and Syrian militaries were busy pounding rebels instead. The Turks would rather have the Assad regime - and by extension Russia, Iran and Hizbullah - rule over the Syrian Kurds whom they consider terrorists.
        The West is having a hard time processing the fact that Turkey is increasingly hostile. It started when Ankara denied the use of its territory, including Incirlik Air Base, during the war against Saddam Hussein. Later, Erdogan helped Iran transfer weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon and implicitly sided with ISIS in Syria because he didn't want an independent Kurdish region to rise up in Syria as it had in Iraq. Now he's threatening to destroy the only competent Western-friendly militia in all of Syria. (World Affairs Journal)

Israel and the Arab States: A Historic Opportunity to Normalize Relations? - Moshe Yaalon and Leehe Friedman (Foreign Affairs)
  • In recent years, the scope of common interests between Israel and the Sunni Arab world has widened. Given the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), chaos stemming from stateless Libya, and civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the Arab states - which are a pragmatic lot - can no longer claim that the Palestinian issue is the region's top priority.
  • The Arab people likewise see the Palestinian issue as a less pressing concern. An annual survey of young people in the Arab world, conducted by ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller, revealed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was rated eighth among the region's main threats, down from seventh place in last year's survey. On top of this, the Arab states have reduced their financial assistance to the Palestinians.
  • The main obstacle to normalization is public opinion in the Arab world, which "obliges" Arab regimes to put a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute before normalization. This hurdle must be overcome, either by settling the conflict or by persuading the Arab world that it is worth separating the artificial linkage between the two issues.
  • Current geopolitical conditions have created a critical mass of new and overlapping interests between Israel and the Arab countries, and there is now a historic opportunity to promote a process of normalization.
  • Hinging normalization on the resolution of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not brought the region any closer to a solution; what it has done is to make both the Arab states and Israel hostages to a conflict that has no solution on the horizon.
  • It is therefore time for the pragmatic Arab camp to abandon this formula, which has so far led only to stagnation, and instead to seriously examine steps toward gradual normalization that will help to build mutual trust.

    Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon is a former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief of staff. Leehe Friedman is a research assistant at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.