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  • Author: Lenny Ben-David
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: The appointment of former Senator George J. Mitchell as Middle East envoy was warmly received in Washington, Jerusalem, and Ramallah. Yet, the Middle East that Mitchell will confront today is much changed from the one he wrestled with eight years ago as chairman of the 2001 Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, which was created to investigate the outbreak of the Second Intifada. The 2001 Mitchell Report was seen as an "even-handed" document, reflecting President Clinton's directive to "strive to steer clear of...finger-pointing. As a result, the committee attempted - even at the risk of straining credibility - to split the blame for the crisis. The Mitchell Committee could not ignore Palestinian terrorism and the Palestinian use of civilians as human shields. Israel's transgression - and there had to be one to balance Palestinian sins - was its settlement activity. The committee recommended a "freeze [of] all settlement activity, including the 'natural growth' of existing settlements." Israelis objected that the freeze - never mandated in the interim stages of the Oslo Accords - would serve to reward the Palestinians' terrorism. The committee was appointed before the 9/11 al-Qaeda attack. Its report came prior to the capture of two weapons-laden ships bound for Gaza - the Santorini in May 2001 and the Karine A in January 2002 - and prior to President Bush's 2004 recognition of "new realities on the ground [in the territories], including already existing major Israeli populations centers." Bush continued: "[I]t is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." The 2001 Mitchell Report was issued years before Hamas' coup in Gaza. Hamas remains dedicated to Israel's destruction. Its alliance with Iran and its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood mark Hamas as an enemy of moderate Arab regimes. Hamas may yet prove to be a fatal flaw to Mitchell's axiom that "there is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended."
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Shimon Shapira
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: Immediately upon the end of the fighting in Gaza, the international community will enlist on behalf of an extensive rehabilitation project to enable the Palestinian population to return to their homes and get on with their civil and economic lives. It is of prime importance to prevent Iran from acquiring influence in post-war Gaza through any assistance programs. Following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Iran and Hizbullah grasped the political and economic significance of the rehabilitation project in the Shiite areas of southern Lebanon damaged during the war. Hizbullah directed the rehabilitation work, while totally ignoring the central Lebanese government, and in this manner regained and even reinforced its influence within the Shiite community. Iran is already positioning itself for influence in post-war Gaza. On January 14, 2009, the Deputy Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Akbar Mohtashami, arrived in Lebanon heading a 40-man delegation in order to direct Iranian support for Hamas. The main objective for Israel and the international community should be to deny Iran the attainment of this objective and to transform the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, into the principal factor, along with Egypt, entrusted with the rehabilitation work in Gaza.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, War, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Palestine, Gaza, Lebanon
  • Author: Efraim Karsh
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: With a unanimity that has become all too familiar, politicians, the media, NGOs, and church leaders across the globe took their cue to denounce Israel's legitimate act of self-defense against one of the world's most extreme terror organizations. This chorus of disapproval is in stark contrast to the utter indifference to far bloodier conflicts that have been going on around the world. Why do citizens in democracies enthusiastically embrace a radical Islamist group that not only seeks the destruction of a fellow democracy but is overtly committed to the substitution of a world-wide Islamic caliphate for the existing international order? Decades of mistreatment of the Palestinians by the Arab states have gone virtually unnoticed. Only when they interact with Israel do the Palestinians win the world's attention. The fact that international coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict has invariably reflected a degree of intensity and emotional involvement well beyond the normal level to be expected of impartial observers would seem to suggest that it is a manifestation of longstanding prejudice that has been brought out into the open by the conflict. The Palestinians are but the latest lightning rod unleashed against the Jews, their supposed victimization reaffirming the millenarian demonization of the Jews in general, and the medieval blood libel - that Jews delight in the blood of others.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Dore Gold
  • Publication Date: 10-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's past involvement in international terrorism is indisputable. While the Bush administration decided to redact 28 sensitive pages of the Joint Intelligence Report of the U.S. Congress, nonetheless, Saudi involvement in terrorist financing can be documented through materials captured by Israel in Palestinian headquarters in 2002-3. In light of this evidence, Saudi denials about terrorist funding don't hold water. Israel retrieved a document of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) which detailed the allocation of $280,000 to 14 Hamas charities. IIRO and other suspected global Saudi charities are not NGOs, since their boards of directors are headed by Saudi cabinet members. Prince Salman, a full brother of King Fahd, controls IIRO distributions "with an iron hand," according to former CIA operative Robert Baer. Mahmoud Abbas, in fact, complained, in a handwritten December 2000 letter to Salman, about Saudi funding of Hamas. Defense Minister Prince Sultan has been cited as a major IIRO contributor. It was hoped, after the May 12 triple bombing attack in Riyadh, that Saudi Arabia might halt its support for terrorism. Internally, the Saudi security forces moved against al-Qaeda cells all over the kingdom. But externally, the Saudis were still engaged in terrorist financing, underwriting 60-70 percent of the Hamas budget, in violation of their "roadmap" commitments to President Bush. Additionally, the Saudis back the civilian infrastructure of Hamas with extremist textbooks glorifying jihad and martyrdom that are used by schools and Islamic societies throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ideological infiltration of Palestinian society by the Saudis in this way is reminiscent of their involvement in the madrassa system of Pakistan during the 1980s, that gave birth to the Taliban and other pro bin-Laden groups.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Arab Countries, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Joel S. Fishman
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: Israel and the PLO have been confronting each other according to completely different paradigms of conflict. Since the late 1960s, the PLO has adopted a "people's war" paradigm that continued to guide its policies even after the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords. According to the "people's war" paradigm, borrowed from Marxist-Leninist traditions in China and Vietnam, conflict is waged on both the political and military levels, but for militarily weaker guerilla groups, political conflict is more important, especially the delegitimization of an adversary and the division of his society. Prior to 1993, Israel largely responded to the PLO militarily as a terrorist threat, but not politically. After 1993, with the PLO "renouncing" terrorism, Israel embraced the PLO leadership and ignored the signs that the PLO was still engaged in political warfare against it (incitement, reluctance to alter PLO Covenant, UN votes, textbooks). Israeli governments later complained about these symptoms of political warfare, without identifying the cause. Established Israeli traditions place undue emphasis on the narrowly-framed military approach to the detriment of the political, which leaves Israel particularly vulnerable to broad-based strategic deception. Israeli policy-makers must reexamine the assumptions upon which they have based political and military policy over the last decade.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, War
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Israel, Vietnam, Arab Countries, Oslo
  • Author: Gerald M. Steinberg
  • Publication Date: 08-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: The record of formal efforts to negotiate peace in protracted ethno-national conflicts (Balkans, N. Ireland, Sri Lanka, etc.) is not encouraging. Israel needs a serious insurance policy, in the form of unilateral separation, to minimize vulnerability to another and potentially more deadly terror campaign, should the "roadmap" fail. The construction of a separation barrier is supported by over 70 percent of the Israeli public, representing a broad consensus from across the political spectrum that favors a physical barrier blocking access to Israeli cities in order to prevent a resumption of the Palestinian terror campaign of the past three years. Political separation will also promote a two-state solution, allowing Israel to remain a culturally Jewish and democratic society while fostering Palestinian sovereignty. Key policy issues concern the pace of construction and the route to be taken for the remaining sections. While options range from a minimalist 300 km line to a 600 km alternative that would include most Israeli settlements, a pragmatic middle route including settlement blocs like Ariel and Gush Etzion may provide the optimum mix under present circumstances. If the Palestinian security framework proves its capabilities in preventing terror, and political negotiations on borders progress, the barrier can be relocated.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, Sovereignty
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Arabia, Balkans, Ireland
  • Author: Anne Bayefsky
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: The roadmap has significant roots in the UN, an organization long understood as biased against Israeli interests and Jewish well-being in general. Examples include the work of the UN "Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories," established in 1968, and the UN "Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People," created in 1975. There is a pressing need to clarify with the American administration what attributes of sovereignty will not be accorded a Palestinian state with provisional borders prior to final status negotiations. Israel must reassert that its consent is necessary for any decision affecting its essential interests. An American commitment to object to any unilateral declaration of independence should be immediately forthcoming and clearly understood by the parties. The UN and the European Union must be kept out of any monitoring and assessment function. Recognition of a fundamental breach, and the ability to apply the necessary consequences, require that precise and public monitoring by Israel start now.
  • Topic: Security, Religion, United Nations
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Author: Dore Gold
  • Publication Date: 06-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: The quest for defensible borders has been an axiom of Israeli governments since 1967 on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 242. Defensible borders for Israel has been explicitly backed by Washington since the Reagan administration. In Rabin's last Knesset address he made clear that Israel "will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines." He insisted on a map including a united Jerusalem, the settlement blocs, and the Jordan Valley. In 2003, Israeli planners will have to operate under the assumption that the dismantling of the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure will be incomplete, and should a Palestinian state nonetheless be established, its complete demilitarization will not be reliable. During the Oslo years, the Palestinian leadership was in material breach of the military clauses of the Interim Agreement, seeking to import illegal weaponry like SA-7 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and manufacturing Qassam rockets. Many of the same security figures who breached Oslo now serve the government of Mahmud Abbas. Moreover, fundamentalist groups like Hamas that mentioned the Islamic term hudna, for cease-fire, understood that it means a truce that is maintained until the balance of power changes. This means they will seek rearmament; Israeli military intelligence was, in fact, reporting that Hamas had accelerated production of Qassam rockets in early July. In their pronouncements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have even used a weaker term: ta'liq - a temporary cessation of hostilities. In the wake of the decline of the threat from Iraq, Israel will require defensible borders to meet the growing lethality of the Palestinian threat, backed by the assistance of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration should provide Israel with assurances concerning defensible borders as it seeks Israel's acquiescence to the creation of a Palestinian state.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan
  • Author: Justus Reid Weiner
  • Publication Date: 05-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: In recent decades, municipalities and governments in all parts of the world have struggled with illegal building. However, compared with the incessant denunciation of rather infrequent demolitions by the Jerusalem Municipality, there has been nearly a complete lack of publicity when other governments demolish illegal structures. Those who complain that many Arabs cannot afford housing in Jerusalem ought to recognize economic reality; Jewish residents of Jerusalem who also cannot afford the high cost of housing find it necessary to move to the periphery of the city where housing is more affordable. In New York, nobody would excuse or tolerate people building illegally in Central Park, whatever their attachment to Manhattan or however large their family. Even the Palestinian Authority has demolished houses constructed illegally. Particularly refreshing was PA leader Sari Nusseibeh's statement that the "gangs that build illegally on land that does not belong to them should be thrown into jail," and that "Nobody in their right mind is in favor of illegal building."
  • Topic: Security, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: New York, Middle East, Palestine, Arabia, Jerusalem
  • Author: Dan Diker
  • Publication Date: 05-2003
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: The impending renewal of Arab-Israeli contacts after the Aqaba summit is an appropriate occasion to reassess one of the weak points of Israel's information effort. At the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, then Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "broke the ice" with scores of Arab reporters when he provided articulate explanations of Israel's positions. Eytan Bentsur, Director General of Israel's Foreign Ministry at the time of Madrid, saw Israel's "paternalistic" approach to the Palestinians at Oslo as contributing to the ultimate collapse of the peace process. The launch of Arab satellite television in 1994 provided Israel with direct access to millions of Arab and Muslim viewers throughout the Middle East. Prime Minister Sharon's foreign media advisor, Raanan Gissin, is regularly interviewed on the leading Arab channels. Despite the high standards of news programming on Israel's new Arabic-language Middle East Satellite Channel, it is not widely viewed in the Arab world because it is recognized as an Israeli government operation. ArabYnet, an Arabic translation of the popular Ynet news website of the Israeli Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot, has become one of the most popular Arabic language websites on the Internet, with nearly a million unique monthly users. It is a commercial site that presents an Israeli point of view but with no particular political agenda.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia