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  • Author: Emil Avdaliani
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Russia’s geopolitical projection has shifted over the past two decades. The country has tried to reverse its losses in Ukraine and the South Caucasus, but it is in Belarus that Moscow will most likely try to further extend its leverage to keep the EU and NATO at bay.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: George N Tzogopoulos
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The prospective EastMed pipeline would be the flagship project of the Cypriot-Greek-Israeli collaboration, a developing friendship that enjoys deep foundations. The US has now made its support for that partnership official.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Roger Asfar
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: On 22 September 2018, a boat carrying 39 refugees sank while sailing illegally from the Lebanese coast towards Cyprus. Five-year old Syrian-Palestinian Khaled Nejme drowned in the incident, drawing attention to the plight of Palestinian refugees from Syria seeking refuge in Lebanon. Once considered lucky compared to Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries, Palestinian refugees from Syria are now experiencing secondary displacement and are among the most vulnerable refugee groups in Lebanon.1 This paper attempts to provide a better understanding of the attitudes toward the return of Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria. More specifically, the paper addresses the challenges faced by Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria’s Yarmouk camp and currently residing in Lebanon. Since the Syrian regime and its allies have retaken control of Yarmouk, and amidst increasing calls from Lebanon for the “voluntary return of refugees”, what are Syrian-Palestinian refugees’ prospects of return? What are some of the major obstacles preventing their return? And what are some of the basic conditions to be met for a truly voluntary return to be encouraged? To answer these questions, the authors conducted a series of interviews in Shatila camp and Ain el-Hilweh between 26 June and 16 September 2018.2 The interviews were constructed in a way that allowed ample space for the representation of different political positions, ideological orientations, social backgrounds, and age groups.
  • Topic: United Nations, Diaspora, Immigration, Refugees
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Syria
  • Author: Marie kortam
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Those who visited Palestinian camps in Lebanon last month could not have missed a new upsurge in the popular mobilization on Palestinian streets. Their enthusiasm can be sensed in the spirits of the youth, their chants, and round-the-clock occupation of public spaces. This upsurge in mobilization was not only the result of the Lebanese Labour Minister’s implementation of his plan1 to combat businesses employing foreign labour without a permit – after giving them one month to regularize their situation.2 It was also the outcome of an accumulated sense of frustration, injustice, humiliation, indignation, deprivation and finally, anger that crystallized in these latest rounds of collective political action. The question then remains: why have Palestinians in Lebanon reached a breaking point at this stage, and why did the movement take this shape? There is no doubt that this anger accumulated gradually. First, it arose from the political-security arrangement for Palestinians in Lebanon, along with the historical absence of a socio-political contract with the Lebanese state. Second, it is the outcome of the deprivation, oppression, racism, and discrimination against Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which was finally exacerbated by international resolutions hostile to the Palestinian cause, threatening the refugee cause and the right of return. Moreover, the economic situation of Palestinian refugees has deteriorated and was further compounded after the USA cut off its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). However, alone these factors are not enough to fully explain this mobilization. These latest developments are also the product of a degree of practical awareness among the Palestinian youth and their discourse which explains their involvement in a movement demanding civil rights and an arrangement in which Palestinians are an agent of change against injustice. This movement is also proof of the existence of a new paradigm of the oppressed, who no longer identifies with the oppressors and becomes dependent on them, but instead seeks to break free from their oppression, and in so doing, spontaneously and effectively imposes a new social formula and project. This paper discusses the emergence of this popular mobilization and its transformation into a social movement, the challenges it has faced, and how its actors built a common framework for action to address their status as oppressed. It relies on field interviews – formal and informal – with actors and politicians, participatory observation, the analysis of organized groups, and contributions via WhatsApp and Facebook. The paper focuses on the movement in Ain al-Hilweh camp as one of the largest Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, with its political and security context that distinguishes it from other camps.
  • Topic: United Nations, Diaspora, Social Movement, Refugees, Social Media, Repression
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Few recent American foreign policy decisions have been as divisive as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear arms control agreement with Iran. Advocates of the agreement have focused far too exclusively on its potential benefits. Opponents equally exclusively on its potential faults. Both sides tend to forget that any feasible arms control agreement between what are hostile sides tends to be a set of compromises that are an extension of arms races and potential conflicts by other means. As a result, imperfect agreements with uncertain results are the rule, not the exception. President Trump has made it clear that he opposes the agreement and would like to terminate it. His dismissal of Rex Tillerson as Security of State, and his replacement by Mike Pompeo – along with his dismissal of General H.R. McMaster and replacement with John Bolton – indicate that President Trump may well seek to terminate the agreement in the near future – action which might or might not have significant bipartisan support. He faces a May 5th to decide whether to again waive economic sanction against Iran, a decision which comes up for renewal every 120 days.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Issue Some U.S. policymakers have argued that the United States should withdraw its military forces from Syria. But the United States has several interests in Syria: Balancing against Iran, including deterring Iranian forces and militias from pushing close to the Israeli border, disrupting Iranian lines of communication through Syria, preventing substantial military escalation between Israel and Iran, and weakening Shia proxy forces. Balancing against Russia, including deterring further Russian expansion in the Middle East from Syrian territory and raising the costs—including political costs—of Russian operations in Syria. Preventing a terrorist resurgence, including targeting Salafi-jihadist groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda that threaten the United States and its allies. Our Recommendations: Based on U.S. interests in Syria, Washington should establish a containment strategy that includes the following components: Retain a small military and intelligence footprint that includes working with—and providing limited training, funding, and equipment to—groups in eastern, northern, and southern Syria, such as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Coordinate with regional allies such as Jordan and Israel to balance against Iran and Russia and to prevent the resurgence of Salafi-jihadists. Pressure outside states to end support to Salafi-jihadists, including Turkey and several Gulf states. As the war in Syria moves into its seventh year, U.S. policymakers have struggled to agree on a clear Syria strategy. Some U.S. policymakers have argued that the United States needs to withdraw its military forces from Syria. “I want to get out,” President Trump said of the United States’ military engagement in Syria. “I want to bring our troops back home.”1 Others have urged caution, warning that a precipitous withdrawal could contribute to a resurgence of terrorism or allow U.S. competitors like Iran and Russia—along with their proxies—to fill the vacuum.2 In addition, some administration officials have argued that the Islamic State has been decimated in Syria and Iraq. The National Security Strategy notes that “we crushed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq.”3 But between 5,000 and 12,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Syria and continue to conduct guerrilla attacks, along with between 40,000 and 70,000 Salafi-jihadist fighters in Syria overall.4
  • Topic: Civil War, Terrorism, Military Strategy, Military Intervention
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Jon B. Alterman, Heather A Conley, Donatienne Ray
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: U.S. strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean is long overdue for revision. Policies, priorities, and activities girded by U.S.-led alliance structures were developed to stabilize Europe and deter Soviet aggression at the dawn of the Cold War. Seventy years later, they are no longer fit for purpose. However, the region remains a linchpin for an array of vital U.S. interests. In the last decade alone, regional conflicts and state fragmentation have caused millions of migrants and internally displaced to flee their homes, creating one of the largest migration crises since World War II. The arrival of an unprecedented number of migrants has triggered political backlash and polarized domestic politics in Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean. Many of the littoral states in the Eastern Mediterranean have faced destabilizing economic crises that have created deep political and strategic vulnerabilities. Significant natural gas deposits discovered off the coasts of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt could boost regional economic prospects as a potential energy-producing region, but a divided Cyprus, historical animosities, as well as a lack of infrastructure connectivity hinder this regional economic potential.
  • Topic: Imperialism, Military Strategy, Infrastructure, Fragile/Failed State, Military Intervention, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Middle East, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Issue: Hezbollah and Iran have accumulated a substantial amount of weapons and fighters in Syria that pose a threat to the United States and its allies in the region. In response, Israel has conducted a growing number of strikes against Iranian, Hezbollah and other targets in Syria. An escalating war has the potential to cause significant economic damage, lead to high numbers of civilian casualties and internally displaced persons, and involve more countries in the region than did the 2006 Lebanon War. The stakes are high, making it critical for Washington to help prevent such an escalation.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Violent Extremism, Syrian War, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Shaan Shaikh, Ian Williams
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Hezbollah is a Lebanese political party and militant group with close ties to Iran and Syria’s Assad regime. It is the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor—aptly described as “a militia trained like an army and equipped like a state.”1 This is especially true with regard to its missile and rocket forces, which Hezbollah has arrayed against Israel in vast quantities. The party’s arsenal is comprised primarily of small, man-portable, unguided artillery rockets. Although these devices lack precision, their sheer number make them effective weapons of terror. According to Israeli sources, Hezbollah held around 15,000 rockets and missiles on the eve of the 2006 Lebanon War, firing nearly 4,000 at Israel over the 34-day conflict. Hezbollah has since expanded its rocket force, today estimated at 130,000 rounds.2 Hezbollah asserts that its rocket forces are primarily for deterrence—a means to retaliate against Israel in the event of conflict. In May 2006, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah explained “The purpose of our rockets is to deter Israel from attacking Lebanese civilians…The enemy fears that every time he confronts us, whenever there are victims in our ranks among Lebanese civilians, this will lead to a counter-barrage of our rockets, which he fears.”3 Indiscriminate rocket fire, particularly from small, easily transportable launchers makes the suppression of fire with airpower more challenging. This forces Israel to rely more heavily on ground forces in a conflict. Lacking any air force of its own, Hezbollah prefers ground wars in its own territory to bombardment from the skies. As Human Rights Watch notes, however, none of these arguments justifies targeting civilians under international law.4 The continued growth of Hezbollah’s missile and rocket forces is undesirable for several reasons. It may, for example, embolden the party to overstep Israeli red lines. Hezbollah’s push to acquire longer-ranged and precision-guided munitions could likewise spur Israel into preemptive action. Hezbollah’s weapons acquisition also raises the prospects for the proliferation of missile technology and know-how. According to Saudi and UAE officials, Hezbollah militants have worked with their Houthi forces in rocket development and launch divisions in Yemen.5 Hezbollah forces in Syria and Iraq similarly operate with various Shiite militias. Growing relations among these groups presents risks for the dissemination of missile technology and knowledge. The following is a summary compilation of Hezbollah’s missile and rocket arsenal. It is limited by the availability of public source information and does not cover certain topics such as rocket strategies, evolution, or storage locations. This brief instead focuses on the acquisition history, capabilities, and use of these forces.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Violent Extremism, Missile Defense, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Author: Sarah Ladislaw, Frank A. Verrastro
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: On May 8, President Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement endorsed by Iran, the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Concurrent with that action, Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act of FY 2012 (NDAA) was reactivated, along with other U.S. sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-proliferation Act (IFCA), the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), and the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRSHRA). Departments and agencies are implementing these sanctions with 90-day and 180-day wind down periods, after which time the applicable sanctions come back into full effect.1 Since May, administration officials from several agencies have been travelling around the world to explain the rationale for the decision to pull out of the JCPOA and persuade countries to comply with the sanctions program. Earlier this week (following the end of the first 90-day wind down period), the administration announced that on August 7 sanctions would be reimposed on: Iran’s automotive sector; Activities related to the issuance of sovereign debt; Transactions related to the Iranian rial; Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals; Graphite, aluminum, steel, coal, and software used in industrial processes; The acquisition of U.S. bank notes by the government of Iran.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Karim Makdisi
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: This paper asserts that the Arab–Israeli conflict, and in particular the question of Palestine, has been the major issue of regional concern across the Middle East for over a century. It claims that the failure to resolve the question of Palestine will continue to impact on the region’s stability and its geopolitical dynamics and to shape popular opinion while limiting Arab leaders’ options. It first situates the Arab–Israeli conflict as a core regional issue in historical context – which is crucial for understanding where we are today – before critically reviewing the Oslo “peace process” and its failure to deliver a just and sustainable peace within the framework of a “two-state solution”. It suggests that this failure has resulted in the ramping up of lingering regional problems (e.g. southern Lebanon, the Golan Heights, refugees and in Palestine itself) and the rise of new challenges and frameworks (e.g. the Resistance Axis and the BDS movement). It concludes that the time has come for the international community – including the European Union, which has contributed to the failure of the two-state solution – to consider alternative paradigms and actions.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Refugees, Syrian War, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Nadav Shragai
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: A new survey, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion among the Arabs of east Jerusalem, indicates an increasing desire among the city’s Arab population to participate in upcoming municipal elections.
  • Topic: International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Nadav Shragai
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: A plan to build a Jewish residential neighborhood in Givat Hamatos (Airplane Hill) in southern Jerusalem was approved in 2014, but has been frozen for four years due to pressure from the U.S. and EU countries. The area is adjacent to a main traffic artery of west Jerusalem.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Dahlia Scheindlin
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Fresh thinking for old problems: comparing conflicts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Nimrod Goren, Roee Kibrik
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Voting Patterns in UN Institutions Regarding Israel, 2009-2017, Dr. Roee Kibrik & Dr. Nimrod Goren
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The 2017 annual conference of the Mitvim Institute was held on 1 November 2017 in Jerusalem, in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. As part of the conference, a public panel was held on opportunities for Israel’s foreign relations towards 2018. It featured Helit Barel, Prof. Elie Podeh, Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, and Eran Etzion who spoke about issues related to the Iran nuclear deal, Israel-US relations, Israel in the Middle East, the involvement of Israel’s Arab citizens in foreign affairs, Israeli-European relations, and the status of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Roee Kibrik, Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This document briefly outlines major trends in Israel’s regional foreign policies over the past six months. It is based on the Mitvim Institute’s monthly reports that cover ongoing developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process/conflict, Israel’s relations with the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean, and the conduct of Israel’s Foreign Service.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, International Affairs, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Jerusalem, Gaza, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, European Union
  • Author: Ari Kattan
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: After Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets at northern Israel during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, the Israeli government began a crash program to find a technological solution to the rocket threat. The result was Iron Dome, which shot down its first rocket on April 7, 2011, and saw large-scale combat during wars in 2012 and 2014. The system has been hailed in Israel and worldwide as a success, with the Israeli military claiming a 90 percent interception rate. Some American defense commentators have even touted Iron Dome as evidence in favor of ballistic missile defense. However, serious questions remain about Iron Dome’s true technical efficacy, both in terms of its past performance and how it is likely to perform in the future under different conditions. Because so much about Iron Dome is classified, information provided by the Israeli military cannot be independently verified. Analyses performed by outside experts—both those questioning Iron Dome’s efficacy and those defending the Israeli government’s claims—are inconclusive. Assuming for the sake of argument that Iron Dome did, in fact, perform as advertised during its previous engagements, it is far from certain that it will be as successful in future engagements, where the volume of rocket fire will be higher and the rockets more accurate. This paper argues that Israel may have already reached “peak Iron Dome,” and the system’s military and political benefits will decrease in future wars until another technological breakthrough is made on rocket defense. This is not to say that Iron Dome was not worth the cost and should not have been procured. But expectations about Iron Dome from the Israeli military, Israeli civilians, and interested parties abroad should be tempered. If they are not, Iron Dome’s decreased success rate in future wars may pose political problems for Israel domestically and give Israel’s adversaries a decisive propaganda victory.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Missile Defense, Hezbollah, Propaganda, Anti-Semitism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Yossi Peled
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO)
  • Abstract: The relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem draw once again the attention of international community to Israel. The event of relocation is in line with the decision of the Trump administration reached in December last year, a move that has its legal foundation in the Jerusalem Embassy Act that was passed by the US Congress as far as 1995. For more than twenty years, the American administrations have been delaying the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem Act was void of presidential signature until Donald Trump became president. In the same year when he took of�ice president Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital city of the State of Israel and ordered the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv. Ever since the time of David, the king of Israel who conquered Jerusalem more than three thousand years ago, and his son king Solomon who built the First Temple, Jerusalem was the Holy City for Jews around the world and the center point for Israel and Judaism. At the same time Jerusalem is a holy site for the Palestinians and the Muslim world, hence a source of confrontation for the two sides. Notwithstanding, people of Israel believe that Jerusalem cannot be divided and that only Jerusalem due to its cultural, historical and religious importance for the Jews, is and can be the only capital city of the State of Israel. However, this status of Jerusalem is still not fully internationally recognized, with a number of United Nations states who do not acknowledge the right of Israel to sovereignly rule in Eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City where most sacred sites of Judaism are located – the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Imperialism, International Cooperation, Religion, Anti-Semitism
  • Political Geography: United States, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem
  • Author: Alimar Lazkani
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: There is constant talk of the “soft conflict” between Iran and Russia in Syria. Most research and media reports focus on the areas of influence and control of each party. Without going into the relationship between Iranian and Russian forces on Syrian soil, in which the Iranian of influence weakened following the entry of Russian troops, it is important to distinguish the nature of these two forces to help identify the characteristics of this conflict, which are not limited to areas of influence. In fact, there is a clear difference between Iranian and Russian interests as well as strategy on two major issues. The first is the relationship with Israel. While Russia sees Israel as a strategic ally in the region, Iran gains its regional legitimacy by emphasizing the continuity of conflict with it. The second is the way each party sees the future of Syria, and its own role in it. Iran is not capable of establishing a centralized state in Syria because of its ideological hostility to the Sunni majority there. Therefore, a state based on sectarian militias will be the cornerstone of Iran’s continued presence on Syrian soil as it has the capacity to manage militias with no national project. Russia, on the other hand, has a vision of a centralized state that is based on the fundamental pillar of a disciplined and dutiful army. Thus, the “soft conflict” involves not only the geographical divvying-up of Syria, but also fundamental matters related to the structure of Syria’s security and military system. This paper is the second part of a broader study of Russia’s policy of establishing a military influence in Syria. It will look at the Syrian militias that Iran has fostered and supported, and Russia’s approach in dealing with them on the ground. However, it does not consider non-Syrian militias on Syrian soil brought by the Iranians, such as Hezbollah, the Fatemiyoun, the Zainabiyoun, and other Shia militias because of their close association with Iranian politics and their temporary posting in specific conflict areas, making them a foreign presence on Syrian soil.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Intervention, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria