Monitoring developments in international security

Posts tagged “Palestine

US and Israel attempt to find common policy ground

The US and Israel appear to be at major policy intersection following the events of this past week. On Thursday President Obama delivered a speech in which he supported Israel negotiating a peace deal with the Palestinians from the ‘1967 borders.’ These are the borders Israel had before the 1967 Six-Day War in which the Jewish state launched a preemptive strike against Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel criticized the call for Israel to return to its 1967 borders, calling them ‘indefensible.’

  










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While President Obama did put public pressure on Israel to discontinue its illegal settlements and to come to terms with the reality of an eventual Palestinian state, he also sought to reassure America’s ally. He criticized plans later this year to hold a UN General Assembly vote on the creation of a Palestinian State. He also put himself in the shoes of Israeli leaders in light of the recent announcement of the Fatah-Hamas unification by musing, ‘How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?’

Regardless of the protective, reassuring statements the President directed at Israel or even, for that matter, the criticisms; the truth is that Israel is facing a challenging future. The Arab Spring protests erupting around the Middle East serve as a great inspirational backdrop for the Palestinian statehood movement. Indeed, every one of Israel’s neighbors has experienced some form of anti-government action. The UN vote on a Palestinian state, which will likely take place later this year, could serve as a humiliation for Israel, especially if the US is one of only a few prominent nations to vote against it.* So while Israel may show public consternation at President Obama’s speech on Thursday, the fact is that both nations need to rely on some old-fashioned diplomacy to convince states like Britain, France and Germany not to further make a pariah out of Israel.

*(It’s my understanding that the US, regardless of the outcome of the vote, would be able to use its veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to avoid the vote translating into an actual statehood.)

A few relevant links: NYTimes on Obama and Netanyahu, CBS on the legal concerns of a UNSC veto, Al-Jazeera hosts a scathing op-ed on Obama’s speech

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Syria on the brink

Syria continues its brutal suppression of anti-government protests as the EU and US consider imposing further sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation. Reports pour in of Syrian forces opening fire against protesters as videos emerge on youtube of the atrocities. It’s interesting to examine what a dramatic role social networking sites have had on the futures of a number of Middle Eastern countries.  The amateur video of the violence in Syria particularly reminds me of the Iranian protests in 2009 following the rigged presidential election. The video below instantly brought up memories of the Neda incident.

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Sending a message

Every year Palestinians protest the foundation of Israel, during which hundreds of thousands were forcibly relocated, dubbing the object of their anger a ‘catastrophe.’ (Note that these protests are unrelated to the anti-government protests discussed above). But while the Israeli borders with Lebanon and the West Bank remain volatile, Syria has traditionally maintained strict control of its border, even preventing its own citizens access to it. Sunday was this year’s date for the protest and thousands of protesters came from the Syrian side.

While the spirit of the protests and ire of its participants was genuinely directed at Israel, the protesters themselves were no doubt serving as pawns for Damascus. Allowing the anti-Israel protesters unprecedented access to the Israeli border, the Assad regime was sending a powerful message that only through its will has the border has remained peaceful for the last 40 years. The message is sure to present an all-too-familiar dilemma to Israel and the US in how to approach the Arab Spring: the choice between the status quo or the risky protesters. While the Middle East can hardly be called peaceful in the traditional sense of the word, there’s at least some degree of confidence in expectations for the future if current governments stay the same. And although Syria is allied with distinctly anti-Israel entities like Iran and Hezbollah, its own Golan Heights border with Israel has seen little action since 1974. So while Israel and its supporters might sympathize with the pro-democracy protests in Syria, the Assad regime sent an important message to its Jewish neighbor on Sunday by allowing the protesters to storm the Israeli border: you might not like us, but you had better hope that we stay in control.

Related links:

Spotlight Syria

Message for Israel


News and Links

On days I don’t have a post prepared but still feel the need to update, I’ll post some relevant news articles and let others do the talking for me.

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) meets with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Egypt.

    Palestine: Hamas and Fatah, the two Palestinian factions, have reached a unity agreement. This is no doubt an important step towards getting state recognition for Palestine. Al Jazeera has an article on Netanyahu’s take on the deal. (spoiler: He doesn’t like it) Britain and France seemed to welcome the developments. Hamas, however, is still listed as a terrorist organization on the US State Department’s website and publicly mourned the recent death of Osama bin Laden.

    Afghanistan/Pakistan: The New York times has a brief but interesting article regarding the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Libya: A prosecutor for the ICC has petitioned for an arrest warrant for Gaddafi and two others for war crimes. While the prosecutor specifically cited examples of systematically killing unarmed civilians, there have also been recent allegations that pro-Gaddafi soldiers are using rape as a weapon against the Libyan populace.

    South Korea/North Korea: South Korea has conducted a routine artillery exercise on islands near the disputed sea boundary line with North Korea. The North did not publicly respond to the exercise but some aspect of the impoverished nation will likely be a topic for the next update, so I thought I’d link this.