January 30, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Israel's El Al Airlines Suspends Flights to China over Coronavirus - Michal Raz-Chaimovich (Globes)
    El Al announced Thursday that it was suspending its flights to Beijing until March 25 because of the outbreak of coronavirus.
    See also How Are Jews in China Coping with the Coronavirus? - Rossella Tercatin (Jerusalem Post)

If the Palestinians Reject the U.S. Peace Plan, What's Their Alternative? - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
    Throughout the dense text of the peace plan that President Trump announced on Tuesday is a stark but unstated question to the Palestinians: If you reject this deal, as bad as you think it may be, what are you going to get instead?
    He is telling the Palestinians that after three decades of rejecting better offers than this one, they're in danger of being abandoned by the Arabs, who will decide to move on and normalize relations with Israel even if the Palestinians say no.
    Trump's leverage is that many leading Arab states are giving what's close to tacit support to the proposal and its promise of eventual normalization between the Arabs and Israel.

For Palestinians, the Landscape Has Shifted - David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
    While it was always presumed that a Palestinian state would be forged through talks with the Israelis, the landscape has shifted much in recent years with a divided Palestinian leadership and an Arab world that has largely moved on.
    With only muted reaction from Arab neighbors and little apparent appetite among Palestinians for a violent response, a peace proposal that might have been considered outlandish a decade ago landed with little serious opposition.
    The assorted calls for action from Palestinian activists eager to shake up the prevailing inertia sounded like variations on a theme of admitting the failure of the Palestinian Authority to grow into a state.

U.S. Peace Plan Offers a Demographic Promise - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
    The U.S. peace plan redraws Jerusalem's municipal boundaries in a way that would place 140,000 residents in Arab neighborhoods beyond the security barrier under Palestinian sovereignty, mainly in the areas of Shuafat and Kafr Aqab in the northern part of the city.
    If the plan will ever get implemented, it will have a major impact on the demography in Jerusalem, with a third of the residents in east Jerusalem coming under PA jurisdiction.

Video: Hadeel's Story - Israeli, Christian, and an IDF Officer (Israel Defense Forces)
    My second day in the IDF, when I met the friends in my room, and I told them about myself, they took me in in a way I won't ever forget.
    I'm Hadeel, 21 years old, a Christian Israeli who lives in northern Israel.
    In 10th grade I started to learn more about Israel and that's when I realized how important it is to serve the country that protects me, that protects my family, that gives me all the rights I have.
    So I felt the obligation to give as much as possible to my country. Every day that I put on my uniform, I feel proud.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Arab Leaders' Support for Mideast Peace Plan Marks a Regional Shift - Dion Nissenbaum
    Officials in Arab capitals have been frustrated by Palestinian leaders' reluctance to compromise, which has prevented them from strengthening ties with Israel. The U.S. has wooed officials from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, and other nations in the region in an effort to transcend the political impasse, and to some extent they are responding. Saudi Arabia and the UAE both urged Palestinian leaders to accept the U.S. plan as a basis for new talks with Israel.
        "It's the first time, I think since the start of the conflict, that the Arab position has not been a replica of the Palestinian position," said David Makovsky, director of the Project on Arab-Israel Relations at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "That speaks to a wider sense of regional priorities that the Arab countries have." The modified tone in Arab capitals is a reflection of the shifting relationships in the region, where nations officially at war with Israel are strengthening ties with its companies and leading figures. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Arabs Prioritize Key Ties with U.S. Against Iran in Reacting to Peace Plan - Stephen Kalin (Reuters)
        See also Palestinians Feel Betrayed by Arab World following U.S. Peace Plan - Mark MacKinnon (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • Pompeo Urges Palestinians to Present "Counter Offer" to Rejected Peace Plan - Dmitry Zaks
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said Palestinians who rejected President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan were "free to come up with a counter offer" that could win Israeli support. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Restrained in Protests over U.S. Peace Plan - Jack Khoury
    Palestinian protests against the U.S. peace plan began Tuesday in the West Bank and continued Wednesday, but the demonstrators were careful not to let things get out of hand. Attendance was pretty sparse and there were no serious clashes. Demonstrations were expected to continue, but the atmosphere did not point to serious escalation. Palestinian security forces have been accompanying the demonstrators as they approach Israeli checkpoints. It isn't clear to what degree the wider public would be willing to broaden the protest for a lengthy period. (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Peace Plan Unlikely to Lead to Major Violence in West Bank - Yaakov Lappin
    Col. (res.) Moshe Elad, one of the founders of security coordination between the IDF and the PA, said he doubted any significant popular violence would occur following the announcement of the U.S. peace plan. "The Palestinians are...also looking at Gaza; they see the conditions there, and they do not want to reach that. The conditions for them are good, and they fear closures and disorder disrupting their lives."
        The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank had assumed that future talks would resume where past talks left off, based on the idea of establishing a state roughly on the 1967 Green Line. "The Palestinians are not prepared for the new proposal," Elad noted. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Ex-CIA Chief Petraeus: Iran, Hizbullah Will Not Risk Major War with Israel - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    "Iran will not risk a major war because it would put its survival at risk" and "Hizbullah will not risk a full war" with Israel "unless it is pushed into a corner," ex-CIA director Gen. David Petraeus told the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. Petraeus explained that a combination of U.S. and Israeli military power had established deterrence with both Iran and Hizbullah, even as they might risk smaller confrontations. He said Israel's use of force against Hizbullah in 2006 deters Hizbullah from a larger fight to this day. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Explosive Balloons Found in Dimona, over 70 Km. from Gaza
    Balloons with a possible explosive charge attached to them were found Thursday in Dimona, over 70 km. from Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Every Time Palestinians Say "No," They Lose - Bret Stephens
    Nobody will benefit less from a curt dismissal of the U.S. peace plan than the Palestinians themselves, whose leaders are again letting history pass them by. Nearly every time the Arab side said "no," it wound up with less. That was true after it rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which would have created a Palestinian state on a much larger footprint. It was true in 1967, after Jordan refused Israel's entreaties not to attack, which resulted in the end of Jordanian rule in the West Bank.
        It was true in 2000, when Syria rejected an Israeli offer to return the Golan Heights, which ultimately led to U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty of that territory. It was true later the same year, after Yasir Arafat refused Israel's offer of a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem.
        The U.S. plan offers Palestinians a sovereign state, mostly contiguous territory, and $50 billion in economic assistance. What it demands is an end to anti-Jewish bigotry in school curriculums, the restoration of legitimate political authority in Gaza, and the dismantling of terrorist militias.
        The Jewish state has thrived in part because it has always been prepared to make do with less. The Palestinian tragedy has been the direct result of taking the opposite approach: of insisting on the maximum rather than working toward the plausible. (New York Times)
  • An Attempt to Dislodge the Stalled Peace Process - James S. Robbins
    The new U.S. Mideast peace plan is an effort to take the comatose peace process in a bold new direction. This is no "land for peace" approach, like the one tested in the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which resulted in the strip becoming a rocket launching pad for Hamas. Instead, Palestinians are being presented with a series of steps establishing a path for sovereignty.
        Critics said that recognizing united Jerusalem as Israel's capital and recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights would make future peace deals impossible, but what they signaled was that the president was willing to use his leverage to dislodge the stalled process and make those who rejected negotiations pay a real price. These moves were also long overdue recognitions of the reality that Israel would never hand over east Jerusalem or the Golan, so those issues might as well be taken off the table.
        By refusing to negotiate even using the plan as a baseline subject to change, the Palestinians are saying they really aren't up to the task of reaching a settlement. The writer served as a special assistant in the office of the Secretary of Defense. (USA Today)
  • Palestinians Should Have Engaged in the Peace Process - Ray Hanania
    The worst part of the U.S. peace plan for the Palestinians is in allowing themselves to be cast as the cause of the plan's failure. Instead of engaging in the process of peace, the Palestinians demand "all or nothing." As a consequence, they always end up with nothing. They fan the flames of anger, hoping the Palestinian population will turn to violence to pressure Israel. However, the strategy of violence has been the Palestinians' greatest failure.
        By refusing to engage, Palestinians are unwittingly helping Israel achieve its goals. Instead, the Palestinian leadership should embrace the process. They should have insisted on being at the plan's unveiling, demonstrating that they are committed to peace. (Eurasia Review)

  • The U.S. peace plan is an opportunity for Palestinians and their supporters to ask themselves difficult questions. The Palestinians - and the broader pro-Palestinian community of diplomats, activists, and academics - owe themselves and the beleaguered people whose cause they claim to champion a firm reckoning with two decades of rejectionism.
  • There's nothing special about an Israeli like me pointing out what a terrible mistake it was to turn down Ehud Barak's offer in 2000 or Ehud Olmert's in 2008. What is maddening is how few Palestinian voices seem to want to say the same.
  • Is it even a question that an independent Palestinian state comprising all of Gaza and 95% of the West Bank with a position in Jerusalem and no separation fence would be better than what the Palestinians have today? The Trump plan is much worse than what the Palestinians could have had only six years ago with the Kerry proposal from 2014. Surely, there must be a lesson here.
  • The former administration officials clogging the pipes with tweets about decades of international consensus being upended don't like to be reminded of the past. Autonomy was supposed to moderate the Palestinians ("give them something to lose"); it led to an unprecedented wave of suicide terrorism.
  • Elections were supposed to weaken Hamas; they took power. Settlement freezes were supposed to make negotiations easier. Military force to crush the second intifada was supposed to be doomed to fail. The West Bank separation barrier could never work.
  • Assassination of Hamas leaders was supposed to increase suicide bombing rather than eliminate it for nearly a decade so far. Erdogan was supposed to be a model of democratic Islamism that Israel should support as an example. The Jerusalem recognition was supposed to cause the Middle East to erupt.

    The writer, who previously served on Israel's National Security Council, is a research fellow at the Chaikin Institute for Geostrategy at the University of Haifa.