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  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Palestinian refugee question, like the refugees themselves, has been politically marginalised and demoted on the diplomatic agenda. Yet, whenever the diplomatic process comes out of its current hiatus, the Palestinian leadership will be able to negotiate and sell a deal only if it wins the support or at least acquiescence of refugees – because if it does not, it will not bring along the rest of the Palestinian population. Refugees currently feel alienated from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which they regard with suspicion; doubt the intentions of Palestinian negotiators, whom they do not believe represent their interests; and, as one of the more impoverished Palestinian groups, resent the class structure that the PA and its economic policies have produced. As a result of their isolation, refugees in the West Bank and Gaza are making demands for services and representation that are reinforcing emerging divisions within Palestinian society and politics. There arguably are ways to address refugee needs, both diplomatic and practical, that are not mutually exclusive with core Israeli interests. This report examines what could be done on the Palestinian side to mitigate the risk that the Palestinian refugee question derails a future negotiation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Refugee Issues, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Israel and Hamas are locked again in combat likely to yield – beyond tragic life and property loss – a return to a destructive status quo. The immediate triggers were the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli yeshiva students, for which Israel holds Hamas responsible, and the revenge torture and murder of a Palestinian teen by vigilante Israeli Jews. The nature and extent of Hamas's involvement in the initial obscenity remains unclear, but the attack's consequences are anything but. Since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July, 168 Palestinians have been killed (80 per cent civilians, a fifth of whom were children) and about 1,150 wounded. Some 1,000 rockets have been launched toward Israel, of which about 200 were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system. Previous rounds ended with each side claiming at best a Pyrrhic victory, because Israel can achieve lasting stability only when Gaza does, and vice versa. Breaking this pattern is even more urgent today, because the stakes of this escalation could be higher.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Islam, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: China tolerates the nuclear ambitions of North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK) for now because its interests in the neighbourhood are much wider and more complex than this single issue. Beijing and the West often work toward their shared goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula with contradictory approaches that reflect their different priorities. The West uses diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions and extended deterrence to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program. Many Western policymakers believe the DPRK will denuclearise if sufficient costs are imposed and that Beijing holds the keys because the North is economically dependent on it. But China is reluctant to take any coercive action that might destabilise the regime and change a delicate geopolitical balance. It instead continues with diplomatic engagement and economic cooperation as the instruments it hopes will cause the leadership to denuclearise in the indeterminate future.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: China, Israel, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The conflicting mandates and lack of coordination among Chinese government agencies, many of which strive to increase their power and budget, have stoked tensions in the South China Sea. Repeated proposals to establish a more centralised mechanism have foundered while the only agency with a coordinating mandate, the foreign ministry, does not have the authority or resources to manage other actors. The Chinese navy\'s use of maritime tensions to justify its modernisation, and nationalist sentiment around territorial claims, further compound the problem. But more immediate conflict risks lie in the growing number of law enforcement and paramilitary vessels playing an increasing role in disputed territories without a clear legal framework. They have been involved in most of the recent incidents, including the prolonged standoff between China and the Philippines in April 2012 in Scarborough Reef. Any future solution to the South China Sea disputes will require a consistent policy from China executed uniformly throughout the different levels of government along with the authority to enforce it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Markets, Maritime Commerce
  • Political Geography: China, Israel
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Does anybody still believe in the Middle East Peace Process? Nineteen years after Oslo and thirteen years after a final settlement was supposed to be reached, prospects for a two-state solution are as dim as ever. The international community mechanically goes through the motions, with as little energy as conviction. The parties most directly concerned, the Israeli and Palestinian people, appear long ago to have lost hope. Substantive gaps are wide, and it has become a challenge to get the sides in the same room. The bad news is the U.S. presidential campaign, Arab Spring, Israel's focus on Iran and European financial woes portend a peacemaking hiatus. The good news is such a hiatus is badly needed. The expected diplomatic lull is a chance to reconsider basic pillars of the process – not to discard the two-state solution, for no other option can possibly attract mutual assent; nor to give up on negotiations, for no outcome will be imposed from outside. But to incorporate new issues and constituencies; rethink Palestinian strategy to alter the balance of power; and put in place a more effective international architecture.
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Politics in the Sulu archipelago could be an unforeseen stumbling block for a negotiated peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the southern Philippines. So far the presumed spoilers have been Christian settlers, conservative nationalists, and recalcitrant members of the other insurgency in the Muslim south, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The islands off the coast of Mindanao have been all but forgotten. But the provincial governors of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, although Muslim, are wary of any agreement that would allow the MILF, dominated by ethnically distinct groups from Central Mindanao, to extend its sway and jeopardise the patronage system they enjoy with Manila. The challenge for the government of President Benigno Aquino III is to find a way to offer more meaningful autonomy to the MILF and overcome differences between the MILF and MNLF without alienating powerful clan leaders from the Sulu archipelago with a capacity to make trouble.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, Armed Struggle, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Israel, Philippines
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Transitions often present risks to authoritarian regimes, but the succession in North Korea has apparently passed with few problems. With no opposition from the military and China's clear support, there are no signs to suggest that Kim Jŏng-ŭn, the young leader who replaced his father, Kim Jong-il, following his death in December 2011, is anything but in charge in his own right. Far from creating a regency of older family members or generals, the North Korean system has maintained its focus on a single leader and projected an image of stability and unity as it celebrates the centenary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il-sung. While that image appears to be accurate, there is nothing to suggest that the new leader is or will become inclined to take measures that would either improve the lot of the country's citizens or reduce the regional frictions that Pyongyang is at the centre of.
  • Topic: Security, Cold War, Nuclear Weapons, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Israel, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The South China Sea dispute between China and some of its South East Asian neighbours – Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei – has reached an impasse. Increasingly assertive positions among claimants have pushed regional tensions to new heights. Driven by potential hydrocarbon reserves and declining fish stocks, Vietnam and the Philippines in particular are taking a more confrontational posture with China. All claimants are expanding their military and law enforcement capabilities, while growing nationalism at home is empowering hardliners pushing for a tougher stance on territorial claims. In addition, claimants are pursuing divergent resolution mechanisms; Beijing insists on resolving the disputes bilaterally, while Vietnam and the Philippines are actively engaging the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). To counter diminishing prospects of resolution of the conflicts, the countries should strengthen efforts to promote joint development of hydrocarbon and fish resources and adopt a binding code of conduct for all parties to the dispute.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Maritime Commerce, Natural Resources, Food
  • Political Geography: China, Malaysia, Israel, Vietnam, Southeast Asia, Brunei
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: There they went again–or did they? The war between Israel and Hamas had all the hallmarks of a tragic movie watched several times too many: airstrikes pounding Gaza, leaving death and destruction in their wake; rockets launched aimlessly from the Strip, spreading terror on their path; Arab states expressing outrage at Israel's brute force; Western governments voicing understanding for its exercise of self-defence. The actors were faithful to the script: Egypt negotiated a ceasefire, the two protagonists claimed victory, civilians bore the losses.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Islam
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Egypt
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The pact signed on 15 October 2012 between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government is a breakthrough in many ways but is far from a final peace. As with earlier texts signed over years of negotiations, this one – the “framework agreement” – defers several tough questions and it is unclear how, if ever, they will be resolved. At stake is the creation of a genuinely autonomous region in Muslim-majority Mindanao for the various ethnic groups collectively known as the Bangsamoro, with more powers, more territory and more control over resources. The framework agreement envisions a new government for the troubled Muslim south that would raise its own revenues and have its own police and judiciary. It maps out a multi-step process to create this new entity by the time President Benigno Aquino III's term ends in 2016. The obstacles ahead are huge. Politics in Mindanao or Manila could get in the way, and it may be impossible to devolve sufficient power to the Bangsamoro government without running afoul of the constitution. The MILF is unlikely to surrender its arms until the process is complete.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Islam, Armed Struggle, Counterinsurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Israel, Philippines