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  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Who could be against Palestinian security reform? In the past few years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) largely has restored order and a sense of personal safety in the West Bank, something unthinkable during the second intifada. Militias no longer roam streets, uniformed security forces are back, Palestinians mostly seem pleased; even Israel – with reason to be sceptical and despite recent attacks on West Bank settlers – is encouraged. Initial steps, long overdue, have been taken to reorganise an unwieldy security sector, where overlapping, unaccountable branches had become fiefdoms of powerful chiefs. West Bankers applaud the changes but are far less comfortable with their accompaniment: unparalleled security cooperation with Israel and crackdown on opposition groups – notably but not exclusively Hamas – affecting civil society broadly. Without serious progress toward ending the occupation and intra-Palestinian divisions, support for the security measures risks diminishing, PA legitimacy could further shrivel, and ordinary Palestinians' patience – without which none of this can be sustained – will wear thin.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Israel-Hamas war has ended but none of the factors that triggered it have been addressed. Three months after unilateral ceasefires, Gaza's crossings are largely shut; reconstruction and rehabilitation have yet to begin; rockets periodically are fired into Israel; weapons smuggling persists; Corporal Shalit remains captive; and Palestinians are deeply divided. It is not as if the war changed nothing. Many hundreds lost their lives, tens of thousands their livelihood and a new political landscape has emerged. But the war changed nothing for the better. The status quo is unsustainable, and Gaza once again is an explosion waiting to happen. Genuine Palestinian reconciliation and a fully satisfactory arrangement in Gaza may not be on the cards, but lesser steps may be feasible to lessen the risk of escalation, address Gaza's most pressing needs and achieve some inter-Palestinian understanding. That would take far greater flexibility from local actors – and far greater political courage from outside ones.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Each time global attention is focused on events in Myanmar, concerned stakeholders turn to China to influence the military government to undertake reforms. Yet simply calling on Beijing to apply more pressure is unlikely to result in change. While China has substantial political, economic and strategic stakes in Myanmar, its influence is overstated. The insular and nationalistic leaders in the military government do not take orders from anyone, including Beijing. China also diverges from the West in the goals for which it is prepared to use its influence. By continuing to simply expect China to take the lead in solving the problem, a workable international approach will remain elusive as Myanmar continues to play China and the West against each other. After two decades of failed international approaches to Myanmar, Western countries and Beijing must find better ways to work together to pursue a wide array of issues that reflect the concerns of both sides.
  • Topic: Security, Economics
  • Political Geography: China, Israel, Beijing, Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Six months after the collapse of autonomy negotiations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippines government, low-intensity conflict continues but moves are under way to resurrect talks. It is not clear whether negotiations will resume and if they do, with what agenda. Certainly no settlement is likely during the remaining tenure of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; the two sides are too far apart, the potential spoilers too numerous, and the political will too weak. The best that can be hoped for is progress around the edges.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Israel, Asia, Philippines, Mindanao
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: North Korea says it is preparing to launch an experimental communications satellite using a rocket that is part of its ballistic missile program. This would be in the face of an international outcry, and of what is a strong though not definitive argument that it violates two UN Security Council resolutions. Japan has been most vocally opposed, saying it will shoot down the rocket if it threatens to fall on its territory. But even if the test is successful, it would only slightly increase security risks, while an overblown response would likely jeopardise the Six-Party Talks to end North Korea's nuclear program. What is needed is a calm, coordinated response from the key actors to raise pressure on Pyongyang to return to the talks rather than a divided reaction that only fulfils the North's desire to widen splits among its neighbours.
  • Topic: Security, Weapons of Mass Destruction, International Security
  • Political Geography: Israel, Asia, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The motivations for North Korea's second nuclear test are, as with many of its actions, mostly impenetrable. It may be the latest step in an unrelenting drive to become a permanent nuclear state or it could be advertising nuclear wares to potential buyers. It may be driving up the price others will pay for the North to give up its weapons or it might be about ensuring that the military will accept whatever decision Kim Jong-il has made on his successor. Most likely, North Korea's nuclear weapons program serves multiple purposes for the leadership. Whatever the rationale, there are no good options in response. Finding a way to resume talks on ending the nuclear program may appear to reward Pyongyang's bad behaviour, but diplomacy is still the least bad option. At the same time, the UN Security Council's strong and united condemnation of the test in Resolution 1874 must be enforced, while containment of proliferation and deterrence of North Korean provocations need to be boosted.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Israel, Asia, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In June 2007, as Hamas took control of Gaza and a new government was formed in the West Bank, observers ventured two scenarios. The West Bank might become a model, whose economic revival and improved relations with Israel and the wider world contrasted with Gaza's sorry fate; or, given continued occupation and the structural dysfunctionality of the Palestinian Authority (PA), it would see little progress. Both were wrong. Under Salam Fayyad's competent leadership, it has made gains, particularly in law and order.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Step by methodical step, Hamas is consolidating its control over the Gaza Strip. The latest development followed a 25 July explosion that killed five of the movement's military leaders in addition to a young girl. In response, the Islamist movement mounted a broad campaign during which it overran the Hillis family, one of Gaza's most powerful and which includes prominent Fatah leaders; arrested hundreds of political activists; and raided more than 200 organisations and offices. The campaign largely wiped out the remains of the Palestinian Authority's security services in Gaza, brought families and smaller political factions to heel, further encroached on civil society and crippled Fatah's already limited political and military capacities to mobilise. In Arab capitals, there is continued talk of Palestinian reconciliation. In the U.S., there is discussion of a possible peace agreement between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. On the ground, in both Gaza and the West Bank, events are taking a decisively different turn.
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The policy of isolating Hamas and sanctioning Gaza is bankrupt and, by all conceivable measures, has backfired. Violence is rising, harming both Gazans and Israelis. Economic conditions are ruinous, generating anger and despair. The credibility of President Mahmoud Abbas and other pragmatists has been further damaged. The peace process is at a standstill. Meanwhile, Hamas's hold on Gaza, purportedly the policy's principal target, has been consolidated. Various actors, apparently acknowledging the long-term unsustainability of the status quo, are weighing options. Worried at Hamas's growing military arsenal, Israel is considering a more ambitious and bloody military operation. But along with others, it also is tiptoeing around another, wiser course that involves a mutual ceasefire, international efforts to prevent weapons smuggling and an opening of Gaza's crossings and requires compromise by all concerned. Gaza's fate and the future of the peace process hang in the balance.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Security
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gaza
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The current reconciliation process between the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) is a continuation of their struggle through other means. The goals pursued by the two movements are domestic and regional legitimacy, together with consolidation of territorial control – not national unity. This is understandable. At this stage, both parties see greater cost than reward in a compromise that would entail loss of Gaza for one and an uncomfortable partnership coupled with an Islamist foothold in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for the other. Regionally, Syria – still under pressure from Washington and others in the Arab world – has little incentive today to press Hamas to compromise, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia are tilting more pointedly toward Fatah. It will take significant shifts in domestic, regional and international attitudes for this to change. Palestine's political-territorial division, now over a year old, is set to endure.
  • Topic: Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Washington, Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Throughout Gaza's history, its powerful clans and families have played a part whose importance has fluctuated with the nature of central authority but never disappeared. As the Palestinian Authority (PA) gradually collapsed under the weight of almost a decade of renewed confrontation with Israel, they, along with political movements and militias, filled the void. Today they are one of the most significant obstacles Hamas faces in trying to consolidate its authority and reinstate stability in the territory it seized control of in June 2007. Although they probably lack the unity or motivation to become a consistent and effective opposition, either on their own or in alliance with Fatah, they could become more effective should popular dissatisfaction with the situation in Gaza grow. There are some, as yet inconclusive, indications that Hamas understands this and is moderating its approach in an attempt to reach an accommodation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Development, War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Haiti
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: It has been a year since Hamas formed its government – and what a dismal year it has been. The Islamists thought they could govern without paying an ideological price, Fatah that it could swiftly push them aside and regain power. By imposing sanctions and boycotting the government, the Quartet (U.S., European Union (EU), Russia and UN) and Israel hoped to force Hamas to change or persuade the Palestinians to oust it. Washington promised security and economic aid to encourage Fatah to confront Hamas and help defeat it. The illusions have brought only grief. The 8 February 2007 Saudi-brokered Mecca Agreement between the Palestinian rivals offers the chance of a fresh start: for Hamas and Fatah to restore law and order and rein in militias; for Israelis and Palestinians to establish a comprehensive ceasefire and start a credible peace process; and for the Quartet (or at least those of its members inclined to do so) to adopt a more pragmatic attitude that judges a government of national unity by deeds, not rhetoric. The adjustment will not be comfortable for anyone. But the alternative is much worse.
  • Topic: Development, Government, International Organization
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Washington, Middle East, Israel
  • Publication Date: 11-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The process that will be launched shortly at Annapolis may not quite be do-or-die for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process but at the very least it is do-or-barely-survive. Positively, a U.S. administration that neglected Middle East peacemaking since taking office appears committed to an intensive effort: it has persuaded both sides to agree to negotiate final status issues – no mean feat after years of diplomatic paralysis and violent conflict. But pitfalls are equally impressive. The meeting, like the process it aims to spawn, occurs in a highly politicised context, with sharp divisions in the Palestinian and Israeli camps. These will make it hard to reach agreement and to sell it to both constituencies and, for the foreseeable future, virtually impossible to implement. Moreover, failure of the negotiations could discredit both leaderships, while further undermining faith in diplomacy and the twostate solution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arab Countries
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: UN Security Council Resolution 1701 halted the month- long fighting between Israel and Hizbollah but did little to resolve the underlying conflict and, if poorly handled, could help reignite it. The resolution has held remarkably well, with only limited violations. However, the temptation by either party to overreach could trigger renewed fighting. The greatest threats would be attempts by Israel or UN forces (UNIFIL) to use 1701 as a blunt means of disarming Hizbollah in the south or by Hizbollah to test UNIFIL's resolve. 1701 should be seen as a transitory instrument that can stabilise the border by containing both sides' military impulses until bolder action is taken to address both domestic Lebanese matters (reforming and democratising the political and electoral systems; building a strong sovereign state and army; resolving the question of Hizbollah's armaments) and, especially, regional issues (in particular re-launching the Syrian track and engaging Iran). In short the international community must be modest in implementing 1701 for as long as it is not prepared to be ambitious in its regional diplomatic efforts.
  • Topic: Security, Treaties and Agreements, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Lebanon, Syria
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: If there is a silver lining in the recent succession of catastrophic developments in the Middle East, it is that they may impart renewed momentum to the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is, admittedly, a slender hope. Since the collapse of the peace process in late 2000, none of the region's parties has displayed the requisite capacity or willingness to reach an acceptable compromise, while the international community has shown more fecklessness than resolve. But the Lebanon war must serve as a wake-up call: so long as the political roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict are not addressed, it will remain a bottomless source and pretext for repression, radicalisation and bloodletting, both in the region and beyond. Now is the time for an international push to launch a new peace initiative.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With the Middle East immersed in its worst crisis for years, we call for urgent international action towards a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Everyone has lost in this conflict except the extremists throughout the world who prosper on the rage that it continues to provoke. Every passing day undermines prospects for a peaceful, enduring solution. As long as the conflict lasts, it will generate instability and violence in the region and beyond.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 06-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Throughout years of uprising and Israeli military actions, siege of West Bank cities and President Arafat's de facto house arrest, it was hard to imagine the situation getting worse for Palestinians. It has. On all fronts – Palestinian/Palestinian, Palestinian/Israeli and Palestinian/ international – prevailing dynamics are leading to a dangerous breakdown. Subjected to the cumulative effects of a military occupation in its 40th year and now what is effectively an international sanctions regime, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) government cannot pay salaries or deliver basic services. Diplomacy is frozen, with scant prospect of thaw – and none at all of breakthrough. And Hamas's electoral victory and the reactions it provoked among Fatah loyalists have intensified chaos and brought the nation near civil war. There is an urgent need for all relevant players to pragmatically reassess their positions, with the immediate objectives of: avoiding inter-Palestinian violence and the PA's collapse; encouraging Hamas to adopt more pragmatic policies rather than merely punishing it for not doing so; achieving a mutual and sustained Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire to prevent a resumption of full-scale hostilities; and preventing activity that jeopardises the possibility of a two-state solution.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Lebanon has badly lost its balance and is at risk of new collapse, moving ever closer to explosive Sunni-Shiite polarisation with a divided, debilitated Christian community in between. The fragile political and sectarian equilibrium established since the end of its bloody civil war in 1990 was never a panacea and came at heavy cost. It depended on Western and Israeli acquiescence in Syria's tutelage and a domestic system that hindered urgently needed internal reforms, and change was long overdue. But the upsetting of the old equilibrium, due in no small part to a tug-of-war by outsiders over its future, has been chaotic and deeply divisive, pitting one half of the country against the other. Both Lebanon's own politicians and outside players need to recognise the enormous risks of a zero-sum struggle and seek compromises before it is too late.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Lebanon, Syria
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Middle East is immersed in its worst crisis in years following the capture of three Israeli soldiers by the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Lebanese Party of God (Hizbollah) in late June 2006 and early July, Israel's comprehensive offensive throughout the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, and the daily firing of rockets deep into Israel. And horrific as it is, the current toll of death and destruction could reach entirely different proportions should a new threshold be crossed – a Hizbollah rocket that strikes a chemical plant or a heavily populated area in Tel Aviv or Haifa, an Israeli bombing raid resulting in massive casualties, a major ground offensive, or the expansion of the war to Syria or Iran. A political solution to the twin crises of Lebanon and Palestine must be the international community's urgent priority. Waiting and hoping for military action to achieve its purported goals will have not only devastating humanitarian consequences: it will make it much harder to pick up the political pieces when the guns fall silent.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Publication Date: 08-2005
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: While the world focuses on Gaza, the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations in fact may be playing itself out away from the spotlight, in Jerusalem. With recent steps, Israel is attempting to solidify its hold over a wide area in and around the city, creating a far broader Jerusalem. If the international community and specifically the U.S. are serious about preserving and promoting a viable two-state solution, they need to speak far more clearly and insistently to halt actions that directly and immediately jeopardise that goal. And if that solution is ever to be reached, they will need to be clear that changes that have occurred since Israelis and Palestinians last sat down to negotiate in 2000-2001 will have to be reversed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, Gaza