Middle East

Iran: A game gone too far

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The story of how Israel reached the – real or perceived – brink of war with Iran is not exactly what it appears to be.

At some point in recent years, Israeli decision-makers decided to play a game. Through a fairly innocuous and innocent lens, the game can be described as “good cop, bad cop.” At worst, it is a dangerous exercise in diplomatic and military brinksmanship that risks catapulting one of the world’s most well-armed regions into an unpredictable and open-ended war.

Either way, the game has gone too far.

Israel is terrified of a nuclear-armed Iran. Although less daunting than the prospect of a second holocaust, the danger Iranian nukes pose is real: they threaten the thus-far unchallenged regional hegemony the IDF has enjoyed for decades.

Earlier this year, the IDF’s top planning officer, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, explained how an Iran with nuclear weapons would change Israel’s strategic (more…)

The Iranian threat: What Israel really thinks

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One of the biggest distortions about the Iranian nuclear threat is Israel’s explanation of its basis for fearing it. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cites Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying the Israeli regime should be wiped off the map, invoking powerful imagery to lead the Israeli public and the world to fear a second Holocaust. But is that really what he and his intelligence assessments fear?

The top officer in the Israeli military’s planning directorate, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, presented Israel’s fear of a nuclear-armed Iran in a less existential and more strategic context last month. Israel, he said, would be deterred from entering into conventional wars with its traditional adversaries, Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, if their Iranian sponsor became a nuclear power.

Nuclear deterrence, Eshel explained, would dramatically alter Israel’s strategic military posture in the region. “If we are forced to do things in Gaza or Lebanon under an Iranian nuclear umbrella, it might be different.”

Another major fear, shared by the United States and regional actors in the Middle East, is that Iranian (more…)

Obama creates linkage between Israel and the Arab world

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There is much to be examined in US President Barack Obama’s speech on the Middle East. As usual, the president’s words failed to thrill any side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For leftists, Obama did not go far enough in pressuring Israel to make concessions necessary for peace, and for the “Land of Israel” right-wingers, his explicit mention of 1967 borders as a basis for future borders represented a betrayal of Israeli interests. Both sides, of course, are over-reacting. The president did not introduce much new to the conflict save for one issue: linkage between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the problems of the wider Middle East and American interests in the region.

For decades, Israeli politicians have been fighting what they call “linkage,” the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be linked to the violent strife and domestic problems in the Arab world (explained passionately here by the ADL’s Abraham Foxman). It is true that Israel is not the cause of conflict in the Middle East. The region has been plagued with armed conflict since Babylonian times and through to Israel’s establishment in 1948. If anything, Israel’s entrance into the Middle Eastern neighborhood has allowed Arabs to refocus their conflict on what is viewed as an external enemy, although a fair number of intra-Arab and intra-Muslim conflicts have threatened the region since (Iran-Iraq, Iraq-Kuwait, Syria-Jordan, Lebanon-Syria, Lebanon-Lebanon, Saudi Arabia-Yemen, etc.).

The conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been widely linked to the relatively dormant Arab-Israeli conflict. With two notable exceptions, Egypt and Jordan, Arab states condition peace with Israel upon (more…)

An ambivalent rejection of BDS

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The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign launched in 2005 has an uncomfortable appeal to many who accept that the occupation of Palestinian lands and people must come to an end but find themselves disillusioned by the lack of any meaningful progress. One aspect of the BDS movement, however, makes it absolutely impossible for two-state advocates to support. This deal-killer, all-too-often left out of the discussion, is the BDS movement’s absolute demand for a Palestinian right of return outside the framework of negotiations (which would see millions of Palestinian refugees settled in Israel, upsetting the delicate balance that allows it to be both Jewish and democratic).

Unfortunately, BDS’s supporters, and even its detractors, tend to discuss the movement’s tactics in far greater detail than they do its goals and their implications, which can lead well-intentioned people to support a cause that contradicts their own beliefs. A recent slew of articles on +972mag have discussed the merits of BDS in the framework of its effectiveness without bringing up the movement’s goals. But to present only a partial view, is to create a fallacious discussion. (more…)

The fragility of ‘unbreakable bonds’

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The United States’ veto on Friday of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning settlements in the West Bank presented a difficult moment for Washington. The resolution, written to mirror much of the language used by the United States over the years, left the White House with a dilemma of whether it should blindly stand by its friends in Israel or stand behind its long-stated position that settlements are illegal and a serious obstacle to a two-state solution. Additionally, by vetoing the resolution, the Obama administration defied nearly every country represented in the UN and took a risk of isolating itself alongside Israel. While the US continues to provide unwavering support for Israel, it is a mistaken assumption that there is an “unbreakable bond” between the two states. If Washington becomes increasingly isolated (economically or politically) as a result of its support and defense of Israel, the relationship may be in trouble.

Since the late 1960s, the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel has been based on four main points. Firstly, Israel was one of the only Middle Eastern states (more…)

Cairo in Ramallah: A disaster scenario?

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With popular uprisings pushing for democracy and an end to oppression sweeping their way through the Middle East, many Israelis are pondering if the democratic fever will reach Palestine. The general fear is that – especially in the wake of the Palestine Papers, which destroyed whatever faith Palestinians ever had in Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority – the people of Ramallah will oust Abbas. This would create a power vacuum, in which Israel is left without a Palestinian tool for implementing its security demands, and someone with whom it can maintain the illusion of a peace process. By focusing on this scenario, however, Israelis are overlooking the greatest danger the regional trend poses to its far-too-comfortable status quo and to prospects for a negotiated two-state solution.

The popular uprisings and ensuing overthrow of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt were about self-determination (not nationalistic), ending violent oppression and demands for personal, political and economic freedoms. If the popular street-level movements sweeping the region do play out in Palestine, it’s not the PA that should be worried – it does not have the suppressive stranglehold on power that Tunisians, Egyptians, Algerians and Yemenites are fighting to fell.

The occupation is the primary source of (more…)

What occupation looks like

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No words for now.

This is what occupation looks like:
(The video loads slowly, please be patient)

Via Joseph Dana at +972 on Vimeo.

Why Israel should support the Egyptian people

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Since the unrest and protests calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster began almost a week ago, Israel has been obsessed with the possible revolution in-the-making’s effects on itself. While there are very good reasons to worry about how regime change in Egypt would affect the security of Israel, especially its military deployment structure, the Israeli position seems to be predicated on the assumption that Mubarak is invincible and that its own comfortable security arrangements vis-à-vis Egypt trump the democratic rights of the Egyptian people.

Despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wisely ordering his ministers to abstain from publicly commenting on the impossible-to-ignore drama taking place south of the border, it seems that behind the scenes, Israel is actively working to protect the Mubarak regime. A report in Haaretz on Monday alleges that (more…)

A ‘day of rage’ in the Middle East: Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine

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A new, but anticipated type of instability began sweeping through the usually-unstable Middle East on Tuesday. Mass protests across Egypt followed the inspirational people’s uprising in Tunisia, Lebanese Sunnis protested a Hizbullah power grab across their country, and anger built in the Palestinian territories as details of what the Palestinian Authority was willing to concede in negotiations with Israel were released in the “Palestine Papers.” Even if the civil unrest does not continue on Wednesday, the day’s events were anything but inconsequential both in the Arab world and to the West and Israel.

In Egypt, the people have long been dissatisfied with their quality of life and lack of freedom (more…)

Another day in the conflicted land

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Like most, today was a paradoxical day in Israel’s news cycle. Here are a few of the highlights:

• The largest left-wing demonstration Israel has seen in recent years took place the night before and the media was full of speculation as to whether the Left is experiencing a rebirth of sorts. Yet the issue that has driven the Left for decades – ending the occupation and making peace with the Palestinians – wasn’t on the agenda.

• The world was congratulating the Tunisian people for the potential freedoms gained by overthrowing a dictatorship that has ruled their country for decades. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu joined the likes of Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Qaddafi in warning that the turn of events represents regional instability and is a threat to peace.

• Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni once again attacked the “moral failure” of Netanyahu for allowing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s enquiry into human rights organizations. However, she made her stand from the moral high ground of Gush Etzion, the home of some of the settlement enterprise’s more extreme elements.

• Finally, The Quartet announced it will meet early next month to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Meanwhile in Jerusalem, 1,400 housing units were put up for discussion to be constructed east of the Green Line and in Ramallah the Palestinian Authority announced it will approach the UN Security Council for a resolution declaring that Israel’s settlements are illegal.

Today was nothing out of the ordinary. Nobody expects anything less than contradiction in the Middle East. After all, it is the conflicted land.

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