Posts tagged unilateral action

Settling Palestine: The ‘latest colonizing adventure’

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The following is an excerpt from a documentary detailing the tactics employed by Jewish settlers in Palestine:

“When a new settlement is established, it must withstand attack from the very first day of occupation. A system of defense has been evolved, in which these experienced settlers play an important part.

“When the proposed site has been marked out, members of the established settlements in the vicinity move off to congregate in the village nearest the scene of the latest colonizing adventure. From all around they come. Men, who have themselves recently made pioneering history, by cars, lorries and wagons, they all move to the (more…)

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…)

Palestinian statehood and strategic perceptions of time

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What exactly will Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas bring back with him when he returns from the United Nations in New York later this month? In today’s world of 24-hour news cycles and in a conflict where reality can and does change by the minute, most speculation and analysis tends to focus on what will happen the day after statehood is declared. But while such a short-term analysis is appropriate from the Israeli perspective, looking at the latest diplomatic move from the Palestinian side requires a much longer view.

“We don’t want to raise expectations by saying we are going to come back with full independence,” Abbas said in his much-anticipated speech last week describing his foray in the United Nations. Even if the statehood bid in the UN is successful, he cautioned, it will not “end the occupation.”

Abbas, a protégé and ideological successor of late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, shares the primary strategy of the iconic Palestinian leader and the current move should be understood in the context of (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…)

Unilateral surprises: Netanyahu’s speech to Congress

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Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is slated to speak in front of a joint session of the US Congress in a few weeks’ time. In an attempt to preempt a planned Palestinian move seeking statehood in the United Nations, Netanyahu is expected to put forth his own peace initiative. The Prime Minister’s Office has been hyping the speech’s impact, saying it will “surprise the international community.”

But there is no real expectation of surprise.

The consensus in the Israeli press in recent months is that the prime minister has yet to offer any original ideas and is too much of a reactionary to conjure any up now. Editorials and columns in nearly every Israeli newspaper have lamented the lack of any forward-looking vision presented by the man expected to lead Israel into the future.

But what if all of the pundits are wrong and Netanyahu does actually understand (more…)

The September Plan: An even bigger ‘nuclear option’

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Diplomats, politicians, pundits and voyeurs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have a new-found obsession, the prospect of Palestine becoming the 193rd member state in the United Nations this September (a move referred to as the Palestinians’ “nuclear option”). While Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has yet to present an Israeli counter-proposal, peace plan or any effective measures to prevent the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders, he might be well served to consider an outcome that fares even worse for Israel.

Late last year, Palestinian Authority negotiator and senior Fatah member Mohammed Shtayyeh told reporters that if the PA’s bid for statehood in the UN fails, that Palestinians have another option up their sleeve – to request UN custodianship of the Palestinian territories.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was completely justified last month when he coined the term, “diplomatic tsunami,” to describe the prospect of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state gaining recognition and membership in the United Nations. Not only would such a move alter (more…)

Gaza: Artificial islands of isolation

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The Israeli government on Tuesday floated an idea to build an artificial Island off the Gaza coast that would serve as an air and sea port for the currently-blockaded coastal strip. Though impressive for its creativity, like most plans hatched by Israeli politicians in recent years, it is depressingly shortsighted and dismissive of reality in the outside world.

The plan sidesteps the current situation, in which nothing short of a full political solution resulting in two states will be accepted by the international community – something Israel can no longer afford to ignore.

Undoubtedly inspired by projects such as Japan’s floating airports and Dubai’s (sinking) island-building adventures, the offshore Gaza island idea addresses two serious issues: accessible international (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…)

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…)

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