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  • Author: Ehud Eiran
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Israel is still holding to its traditional security maxim. Based on a perception of a hostile region, Israel’s response includes early warning, deterrence and swift – including pre-emptive – military action, coupled with an alliance with a global power, the US. Israel is adjusting these maxims to a changing reality. Overlapping interests – and perhaps the prospect of an even more open conflict with Iran – led to limited relationships between Israel and some Gulf states. These, however, will be constrained until Israel makes progress on the Palestine issue. Israel aligned with Greece and Cyprus around energy and security, which may lead to conflict with Turkey. Russia’s deployment in Syria placed new constraints on Israeli freedom of action there. The US’s retrenchment from the Middle East is not having a direct effect on Israel, while the Trump administration’s support for Israel’s territorial designs in the West Bank may make it easier for Israel to permanently expand there, thus sowing the seeds for future instability in Israel/Palestine. The EU could try and balance against such developments, but, as seen from Israel, is too divided to have a significant impact. Paper produced in the framework of the FEPS-IAI project “Fostering a New Security Architecture in the Middle East”, April 2020.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Gas, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: David Makovksy
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although Benny Gantz’s party lost the head-to-head battle, Avigdor Liberman’s favorable influence on the coalition math has left the general in a stronger position—and taken some diplomatic weight off the Trump administration’s shoulders. Israel’s third round of elections last week seemed inconclusive at first, but the deadlock may now be broken. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did better this time than in September’s round two, but his gains were insufficient to form a new government. Potential kingmaker Avigdor Liberman jettisoned his previous idea of getting the two top parties to join forces; instead, personal antipathy and policy differences have led him to definitely state that he will not join any government Netanyahu leads. Thus, while centrist Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz may have options to shape a new government, Netanyahu has no pathway on his own. In theory, the center-left bloc has the requisite number of seats for a bare majority in the 120-member Knesset, since anti-Netanyahu forces won 62 seats. In reality, the situation is more complex.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, North America, United States of America
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: If the latest U.S. effort winds up backing the Palestinians into a territorial corner from the outset, then Washington may not be able to move the process any closer to direct negotiations. The newly released U.S. peace plan marks a very significant shift in favor of the current Israeli government’s view, especially when compared to three past U.S. initiatives: (1) the Clinton Parameters of December 2000, (2) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s “Annapolis Process” of 2007-2008, and (3) Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2013-2014 initiative. The message is clear: the Trump administration will no longer keep sweetening the deal with every Palestinian refusal, a criticism some have aimed at previous U.S. efforts. Yet the new plan raises worrisome questions of its own. Will its provisions prove so disadvantageous to the proposed Palestinian state that they cannot serve as the basis for further negotiations? And would such overreach enable Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to sway Arab states who have signaled that they want to give the proposal a chance, convincing them to oppose it instead? If so, the plan may wind up perpetuating the current diplomatic impasse and setting the stage for a one-state reality that runs counter to Israel’s identity as a Jewish, democratic state. This two-part PolicyWatch will address these questions by examining how the Trump plan compares to past U.S. initiatives when it comes to the conflict’s five core final-status issues. Part 1 focuses on two of these issues: borders and Jerusalem. Part 2 examines security, refugees, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Borders, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ghaith al-Omari
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By granting Israel much more say over the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state and its ability to absorb refugees, the document may undermine the administration’s ability to build an international coalition behind its policies. President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan was presented as a departure from previous approaches—a notion that invited praise from its supporters (who saw it as a recognition of reality) and criticism from its opponents (who saw it as an abandonment of valued principles). The plan does in fact diverge from past efforts in fundamental respects, yet there are also some areas of continuity, and ultimately, the extent to which it gains traction will be subject to many different political and diplomatic variables. Even so, the initial substance of the plan document itself will play a large part in determining how it is viewed by various stakeholders, especially those passages that veer away from the traditional path on core issues. Part 1 of this PolicyWatch assessed what the plan says about two such issues: borders and Jerusalem. This second installment discusses security, refugee, and narrative issues.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Refugees, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: David Pollock
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A host of crucial multilateral interests are baked into the U.S. presence, from keeping the Islamic State down, to protecting vulnerable regional allies, to preventing Iran from taking Iraq's oil revenues. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has brought the tensions in U.S.-Iraqi relations to a boil, with militia factions strong-arming a parliamentary resolution on American troop withdrawal and various European allies contemplating departures of their own. Before they sign the divorce papers, however, officials in Baghdad and Washington should consider the many reasons why staying together is best for both them and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Oil, Bilateral Relations, Islamic State, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Jordan, United States of America, Gulf Nations
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Whether they reveal a detailed plan or merely preview an aspirational document, U.S. officials still need to clarify their goals at a time when elections are looming and Palestinian participation seems highly unlikely. In a dramatic move, President Trump has announced that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his leading rival, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, will visit the White House on January 28 to be briefed on the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Trump told reporters that the plan would likely be released before the summit. Predictably, no invitation was extended to the Palestinian Authority, which severed relations with Washington after the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem in 2017.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Negotiation, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Country Data and Maps
  • Institution: Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Summary, Economy, 5-year summary, Key indicators
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Country Data and Maps
  • Institution: Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Politics, Summary, Political structure
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Country Data and Maps
  • Institution: Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Economy, Economic structure, Charts and tables, Monthly trends charts
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Country Data and Maps
  • Institution: Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Summary, Economy, Background, Fact sheet
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Country Data and Maps
  • Institution: Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Economy, Outlook, Forecast, Overview
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Country Data and Maps
  • Institution: Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Politics, Summary, Outlook, Briefing sheet
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Country Data and Maps
  • Institution: Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Politics, Background, Forecast, Political and institutional effectiveness
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Country Data and Maps
  • Institution: Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Politics, Summary, Background, Political forces at a glance
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Country Data and Maps
  • Institution: Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Abstract: No abstract is available.
  • Topic: Summary, Basic Data, Economy, Background
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Michał Wojnarowicz, Szymon Zaręba
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: On 12 November 2019, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) issued a judgment on products from Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Golan Heights. It states that EU members are required to ensure that the origin is properly marked. The implementation of this requirement may cause disputes in the EU because of differences in Member States’ policies towards Israel. Tensions in relations with the U.S. are also possible, especially in the context of that country’s recent change in policy favouring the Israeli position on settlements. Hence, it is advisable for the EU to develop a uniform policy regarding imports and labelling of products from all occupied territories.
  • Topic: International Law, Territorial Disputes, European Union, Occupation, Judiciary, Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North America, United States of America, West Bank, Golan Heights
  • Author: Michał Wojnarowicz
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia is strengthening its relations with both the Palestinian Authority leadership and Hamas in Gaza Strip. It is part of Russia’s consistent strategy towards the Middle East to build a network of influence among regional actors and boost its image as an attractive political partner. In developing relations with the Palestinians, Russia exploits Israel’s sensitivity to Russian activity in Syria, poor relations between Palestine and the U.S., and the deadlock in the peace process.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Grand Strategy, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michał Wojnarowicz
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Israel took early preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic that contributed to low infection and mortality rates. This allowed lifting the restrictions and restarting the economy at the end of April. The cooperation undertaken with the Palestinian Authority helped limit the spread of COVID-19 across the Palestinian territories. The successful fight against the spread of the coronavirus in Israel has strengthened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the newly earned support may be halted by the impending economic slowdown.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Coronavirus, Pandemic
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: JD Work, Richard Harknett
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Reported Iranian intrusions against Israeli critical infrastructure networks and alleged Israeli actions against Iranian proliferation-associated targets pose substantial new challenges to understanding ongoing competition and conflict in the Middle East. These cyber exchanges may be interpreted through two distinct lenses: as the struggle to achieve deterrence using the instrument of cyber operations, or as the contest for initiative in order to establish conditions for relative security advantage in a cyber-persistent environment. Either way, these ongoing incidents are best understood not as “bolt out of the blue” attacks, but rather fleeting glimpses of continuing cyber campaigns leveraging previously disclosed and newly developed capabilities as each side grapples to anticipate cyber vulnerability and shape the conditions of exploitation. The opaque nature of these interactions is further complicated by potential bureaucratic politics and interservice rivalries, as well as unknown dynamics of a counter-proliferation campaign to slow, disrupt and potentially destroy Iranian nuclear capacity. In the end, observed cyber actions may not represent reflections of accurate strategic calculation, and even if aligned to the operational environment they may not lead to intended outcomes. Continuous failure to deter, or inability to manage persistent interactions, may lead to greater dangers.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Cybersecurity, Non-Traditional Threats
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Nicholas Blanford, Assaf Orion
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Almost fourteen years since the 2006 war, Hezbollah and Israel seem to be drifting closer to war than at any time in the last decade. Even as Lebanon and Israel grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, neither the Israeli military nor Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah are allowing the disease to distract from their long-running enmity. With the military buildup on both sides, the mutual destruction would be far reaching. Given the risks at hand, the Atlantic Council has released a new report, “Counting the Cost: Avoiding Another War between Israel and Hezbollah,” authored by Nicholas Blanford, a Beirut-based nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs, and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Assaf Orion, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. The authors examine the current force posture of the Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah, identify potential triggers that could lead to a war, analyze how the next war would be fought by both sides, and offer recommendations to at least maintain the current relative calm and avoid a conflict that could cost thousands of lives and bring unprecedented ruin to both Lebanon and Israel.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Conflict, Crisis Management, Hezbollah, Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Lebanon
  • Author: Eray Alim
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Turkish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
  • Institution: Turkish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
  • Abstract: This manuscript aims to assess Palestinian street art’s effectiveness as a resistance tool and political instrument in the struggle waged against Israel. It concludes by employing Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic power that Palestinian street art is an effective instrument on account of its ability to instill in Palestinian collective consciousness as a sense of resistance. By utilizing Mouffe’s definition of politics as being a constant struggle between hegemonic and counter hegemonic forces, this work also holds that street art serves Palestinians as a means to reaffirm their political existence and develop an alternative political imagination against the Israeli-imposed reality. This manuscript also broaches the oft-discussed issue of visual diversity in Palestinian street art scene and concludes that eclectic content may serve as a contributive force, if the counter hegemonic character of Palestinian street art is adhered to.
  • Topic: Arts, Culture, Hegemony, Resistance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Nadav Tamir, Nimrod Goren, Lior Lehrs, Yonatan Touval, Elie Podeh, Ksenia Svetlova, Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, Merav Kahana-Dagan, Barukh Binah, Roee Kibrik
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Following the publication of the Trump plan, Mitvim Institute experts argue that this is not the way to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace. This document includes initial commentaries by Nadav Tamir, who claims that Israel needs a real peace plan; Dr. Nimrod Goren, who calls on the international community to say “no” to the Trump plan; Dr. Lior Lehrs, who explains that on the Jerusalem issue, Trump shatters the status quo and previous understandings; Yonatan Touval, who argues that Trump takes problematic diplomatic practices of his predecessors to the extreme; Prof. Elie Podeh, who contends that the Trump plan is not even an opportunity for peace; Former MK Ksenia Svetlova, who warns that the Trump plan might endanger Israel’s warming ties with Arab countries; Dr. Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, who claims that while the EU remains committed to the two-state solution, it struggles to respond to the Trump plan; Merav Kahana-Dagan, who identifies an opportunity to bring the Palestinian issue back to the forefront; Amb. (ret.) Barukh Binah, who calls on Israeli leaders to seek diplomatic, not only security, advice; and Dr. Roee Kibrik, who thinks that Israelis should decide what type of country they want to live in.
  • Topic: Politics, Territorial Disputes, Peace, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nimrod Goren
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: In February 2019, Israel Katz was named Israel’s interim foreign minister, and three months later his appointment became permanent. This ended a period of almost four-years without a fulltime foreign minister, during which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) significantly declined. A year into Katz’s term, an assessment can be made as to whether his appointment has strengthened the MFA and left a policy imprint. This, while taking into consideration the turmoil in Israeli politics since early 2019 and the understanding that deeper change requires a ministerial tenure longer than a year. This article sums up Katz’s first year on the job, based on media reports and information published by the MFA. It examines both intra-ministerial and policy aspects, and concludes that Katz is operating in Netanyahu’s heavy shadow, has failed to address the deep budgetary crisis faced by the MFA, and has focused on developing ties with Gulf States and combatting anti-Semitism.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Financial Crisis, Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gulf Nations
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper scans the interests and activities of Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt in the Mediterranean Basin – their varying and competing interests, their points of convergence and cooperation, and the challenges and opportunities for Israel. The paper is based on the main points raised at the third meeting of the working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held in September 2019 in the Herzliya offices of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center. The paper shines a spotlight on key elements in regional relationships and significant activity taking place in the Mediterranean Basin, which Israel must consider in formulating and executing policy. It is based on the presentations and discussions conducted at the event and does not reflect agreement among all participants.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Economy
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Mediterranean
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This policy paper sets out the various interests and goals of global powers (the US, Russia, China and the EU) in the Mediterranean, and the measures they are undertaking to implement them. The document also describes Israeli policies vis-àvis the powers’ activities in this region, and points to the principles that should guide them. The paper is based on a July 2019 meeting in Jerusalem of the research and policy working group on Israel in the Mediterranean, held at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Middle East, Israel, United States of America, Mediterranean
  • Author: Michal Yaari
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This article focuses on relations between Israel and Qatar, analyzing them in historical context, in the context of Qatari foreign policy and in terms of their potential and the limitations imposed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The article describes the shift from a mutual conception of hostility to unusual cooperation over the Gaza crisis. While Israel aspires to avoid additional rounds of violence with Gaza, Qatar seeks to strengthen its regional role as a mediator, and mutual interests converge into joint activity to avert an additional military clash between Hamas and Israel. The cooperation between the states illustrates how the Palestinian issue can leverage regional cooperation. At the same time, the untapped diplomatic, economic and civilian potential of Israel-Qatar relations points to the limitations imposed by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Economy, Conflict, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Qatar
  • Author: Haim Koren
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: Since President Abdel Fatah a-Sisi’s rise to power in 2014, Israeli-Egyptian ties have been marked by defense-strategic cooperation. This is based on the shared perception of Iran and radical Islamist terror organizations as a threat, and the common interest in managing the Palestinian issue, in general, and specifically the Gaza arena. In the inherent tension between ideology and national interests, Egypt continues to strive for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians (Fatah, Hamas and the other Palestinian factions) and seeks to bring about internal Palestinian reconciliation beforehand (between the leaderships in Ramallah and Gaza). Its role as a key mediator between Hamas and Israel is crucial, and is in line with Egypt’s international standing as an important regional leader.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Gaza, Egypt
  • Author: Ronen Zeidel
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The final months of 2019 were marked by widespread, prolonged protests throughout Iraq, which began in October. Baghdad was the focal point of the demonstrations, which were directed at the ruling political elite and the state backing it: Iran. Prime Minister Adil AbdulMahdi resigned at the end of November, throwing official Iraq into a political vacuum and guaranteeing that any premier appointed to replace him would be considered an interim ruler and as such, his government would only be accepted by the weakened political elite, but not by a significant part of the population. This article reviews the changes that occurred in 2019 in the nature of Israel-Iraq cooperation, as they relate to diplomatic, security, economic and civilian aspects.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Civilians
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Einat Levi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This article examines the current Israel-Morocco cooperation and its development through 2019. It briefly describes developments in diplomatic, security, economic and civilian arenas in order to find common ground and identify trends. Naturally, the paper will not elaborate much on the security-intelligence aspect of the cooperation, despite its centrality, due to its classified nature.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Bilateral Relations, Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, North Africa, Morocco
  • Author: Yitzhak Gal
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: The year 2019 saw additional deterioration in Israel-Jordan relations to the point where ties can be described as “toxic”. Israel’s continued callous disregard of Jordanian sensitivities and interests on policy issues (such as al-Haram a-Sharif/Temple Mount) and economic issues (such as water), was further exacerbated by the particularly volatile issue of the Jordan Valley annexation. Strong security ties continued to provide the basis of the relationship, although they are conducted largely behind the scenes. Economic and civilian cooperation declined, except for the Israeli gas exports to Jordan, which are of strategic importance. Nonetheless, and despite Jordan’s frustration, anger and disappointment with Israel, new content can be infused into the relationship in order to rehabilitate it. Both states have a clear interest in cooperation.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations, Peace, Trade
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Jordan
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper focuses on the role of energy in shaping Israel’s policies towards the Mediterranean. It is based on the main points raised at the fourth meeting of the research and policy group on “Israel in the Mediterranean” held in December 2019 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The meeting was held at the initiative of the Mitvim Institute, the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations and Haifa University’s National Security Studies Center. This paper highlights the main repercussions of energy findings on regional cooperation and the opportunities it opens up for Israel. It presents the link between diplomatic and economic considerations, and the emerging energy alternatives that Israel is considering as it formulates and implements policies. The paper does not reflect agreement among all meeting participants.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Economy
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Mediterranean
  • Author: Gabriel Mitchell
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
  • Abstract: This paper explores the nexus between Israel’s energy policy and foreign policy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. While regional energy cooperation has the potential to be one of the most significant and enduring Israeli foreign policy achievements in recent decades, a closer look at regional geopolitics reveals that energy cooperation is often transactional in nature, and rarely transformative. The discovery of offshore hydrocarbons has also aggravated existing tensions between regional actors. This subject deserves more serious discussion by Israeli policymakers and the Israeli public, who often accept the Netanyahu government’s argument that energy exports will provide Israel massive strategic benefits. As this paper argues, in order to chart an optimal course forward, Israelis must first have a realistic conversation about energy’s potential to catalyze changes in the Eastern Mediterranean that serve Israel’s domestic needs and strategic interests.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Grand Strategy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Mediterranean
  • Author: Ehud Eiran, Aviad Rubin
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Although the Mediterranean was traditionally an afterthought in Israeli geopolitical thinking, the 2000s recorded a shift: Israel is turning to the sea. The Mediterranean is capturing a growing role in Israeli geostrategic thinking. This is in large part the result of the discovery and development of gas in the Mediterranean Sea beginning in the late 1990s. Developed rather quickly, these gas reserves made Israel energy self-sufficient, a significant geo-strategic transformation. Prior to these discoveries, energy was a serious concern. The state had no energy resources, and for decades found it challenging to secure supply in the face of Arab hostility. With the gas discoveries, Israel gained not only energy independence, but also an economic and political tool. Israeli agreements to export gas to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority gave Israel important leverage. The gas discoveries in the Mediterranean further offered the possibility for export to Europe if indeed Israeli-Greek–Cypriote designs to build an undersea pipe will materialize. The new maritime energy source contributed to the expansion of the Israeli navy. Once a junior player in the Israeli armed forces, in 2013 the navy was entrusted by the government to protect the gas depots, despite the fact that they are held in private hands (including by non-Israeli corporations) and are outside of Israel’s territorial waters. The new task, alongside the expansion of the submarine flotilla (probably as part of a future nuclear deterrent against Iran), awarded the fleet a more important role in Israel’s national security establishment and resource allocation. It also allowed Israel to use the force for international cooperation and military diplomacy in the region. This turn to the sea also contributed to an emerging quasi-alliance with Cyprus and Greece, which includes, among many other areas, the possible joint gas export project, military exercises, and bi-annual trilateral summits between these countries’ leaders. Like its regional allies, Israel is affected by growing Chinese interest in the Mediterranean. Chinese corporations contracted the expansion of Israel’s two largest ports, Ashdod and Haifa. The latter was substantial enough to irk the US, whose navy used the Haifa port in the past for re-supply. Israeli and Chinese actors are in early phases of developing a Chinese funded, or owned, high speed train from Israel’s Red Sea port in Eilat to the Mediterranean port of Ashdod, that will serve as an alternate route for the Suez Canal portion of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Geopolitics, Refugees
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Mediterranean
  • Author: Manfred Gerstenfeld
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: An important tool in understanding the dynamics of antisemitism is the identification of moments when its boundaries shift. This occurred with the Trump Peace Plan, the antisemitism crisis in the British Labour party, the UN’s first World Conference against Racism, the huge outburst of antisemitism in France in 2000, and the German welcome policy for refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Topic: Politics, Ideology, Peace, Anti-Semitism, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: Hanan Shai
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The conquest of southern Lebanon in Operation Peace for Galilee, and Israel’s long sojourn in the area, had political and military justification. But defects in the IDF’s deployment during the operation, and later in its protracted security activity, culminated in the May 2000 hurried withdrawal that continues to this day to negatively affect Israel’s national security.
  • Topic: National Security, War, Conflict, Hezbollah, Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Israel resides at the cusp of the widening US-Chinese divide, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Israel attests. Pompeo’s visit was for the express purpose of reminding Jerusalem that its dealings with Beijing jeopardize its relationship with Washington.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Arms Trade, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Israel, Asia, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: George N Tzogopoulos
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Greece, Israel, and five other countries of the Eastern Mediterranean have established the East Med Gas Forum. Turkey is not a member and is employing its own muscular approach in the region. The US would like the Forum to be more inclusive, specifically toward Ankara. Athens and Jerusalem could launch a diplomatic initiative to explore Turkey’s participation, as they have nothing to lose and much to gain from such an initiative.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Gas, Trade
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Mediterranean
  • Author: Anne Herzberg
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: UN treaty bodies are increasingly violating their mandates as part of discriminatory anti-Israel campaigns. In March 2020, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) embraced this disturbing trend by adopting a BDS agenda after being convinced to do so by the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).
  • Topic: Human Rights, Politics, United Nations, BDS, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Norway, Palestine
  • Author: Asaf Romirowsky
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Strategically, Israel’s fundamental military premise is defensive but its tactics are offensive—a result of its geography and absence of territorial depth. Israeli decision-making has always been driven by the active defense ethos, and this is reflected in Israeli filmmaking and TV-making.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Culture, Media, Film, Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Manfred Gerstenfeld
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: A number of conspiracy theories have quickly emerged linking Jews and Israel to the coronavirus pandemic. These are new mutations of historical strains of antisemitic conspiracy theories, including the “poisoning of gentiles” motif and the accusation that the Jews want to control the world. These theories are all linked to the most popular antisemitic conspiracy theory of all, the modern mutation of the ancient blood libel that claims that Israel behaves like the Nazis and has Nazi-esque intentions toward the Palestinians.
  • Topic: History, Judaism, Anti-Semitism, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Gershon Hacohen
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The Jordan Valley, in its full scope and broadest definition, is essential to Israel’s national security. Its retention by Israel requires not only military deployment but a comprehensive development plan—i.e., the construction of housing, roads, and infrastructure—that will establish this territory as Israel’s eastern wing.
  • Topic: National Security, Politics, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jordan Valley
  • Author: Roie Yellinek
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: In 2009, China Radio International (CRI) began broadcasting in Hebrew. This venture has proven a success for the Chinese and a failure for the Israeli media, which uncritically swallow the messages sent out by CRI’s Hebrew team.
  • Topic: Politics, Mass Media, Media, YouTube
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Israel, Asia
  • Author: Uzi Rubin
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning on the emergent Yemen-originating missile threat corresponds to Iran’s modus operandi of surrounding its foes with missile “rings of fire” and will enable Tehran to complete the missile encirclement of the Jewish state as a step toward its eventual demise. Israel must do its utmost to confront this new strategic threat by establishing an alert system and defense capabilities against Yemen-originating cruise and ballistic missiles, whatever the cost.
  • Topic: Security, Military Affairs, Geopolitics, Weapons
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Yemen
  • Author: Uzi Rubin
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Operation Shahid Soleimani, the Iranian revenge attack for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, was less spectacular than the Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities last September and was apparently controversial even within Iran’s top leadership. Still, Israel can learn lessons from it: that Iran’s regime is willing to take extraordinary risks when it feels humiliated; that in certain scenarios precision missiles can be as effective as combat aircraft; that even a few precision missiles can disrupt the operation of modern air bases; and that good public diplomacy is crucial for crisis management.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Weapons , Crisis Management, Risk, Qassem Soleimani
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Efraim Karsh
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: There is probably no more understated event in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict than the San Remo Conference of April 1920. Convened for a mere week as part of the post-WWI peace conferences that created a new international order on the basis of indigenous self-rule and national self-determination, the San Remo conference appointed Britain as mandatory for Palestine with the specific task of “putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government [i.e., the Balfour Declaration], and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” This mandate was then ratified on July 24, 1922 by the Council of the League of Nations—the postwar world organization and the UN’s predecessor. The importance of the Palestine mandate cannot be overstated. Though falling short of the proposed Zionist formula that “Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people,” it signified an unqualified recognition by the official representative of the will of the international community of the Jews as a national group—rather than a purely religious community—and acknowledgement of “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” as “the grounds for reconstituting their national home in the country.” It is a historical tragedy therefore that 100 years after this momentous event, the Palestinian leadership and its international champions remain entrenched in the rejection not only of the millenarian Jewish attachment to Palestine but of the very existence of a Jewish People (and by implication its right to statehood). Rather than keep trying to turn the clock backward at the certain cost of prolonging their people’s statelessness and suffering, it is time for this leadership to shed its century-long recalcitrance and opt for peace and reconciliation with their Israeli neighbors. And what can be a more auspicious timing for this process than the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference?
  • Topic: History, Zionism, Conflict, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Al Jazeera Center for Studies
  • Abstract: The most likely scenario is for the UAE to take advantage of the agreement in areas such as advanced technology, weapons acquisitions and intelligence cooperation, as well as agriculture and health while avoiding military bases and joint defence agreements.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Regional Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, Peace, Trade
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, United Arab Emirates
  • Author: Paul Rivlin
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: In this issue of Iqtisadi, Paul Rivlin delves into the structural factors that led to protests and the overthrow of Sudan's longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir, in 2019. This background along with more recent developments, explains why some of the leadership in Sudan today believe engagement with Israel makes good economic sense.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economy, Omar al-Bashir
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Ahmad Agabaria
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: The elections conveyed a message: The Arab public refuses to be a problem in Israeli society, and strives to return to normalcy. The 1990s were engraved in the memory of the Arab public as a promising period for their rights, but today the tables have been turned. The establishment doubts the ability of Arab Knesset members to represent their constituents and doubts their allegiance to the state. Many in the Arab public understand that the enshrining national-Zionist identity of the state is directed against them. The delegitimization of the Arab minority and its elected representatives reached its peak in the recent elections. The slogan "Bibi or Tibi" is an expression of incitement and racism that should be denounced. The "deal of the century" plan, and in particular its intention to annex the Triangle Region to a Palestinian state, actually contributed to raising the turnout rate on the Arab street. The 15 seats won by the Joint List restored the belief to Arab citizens that change is possible.
  • Topic: Politics, Minorities, Elections, Citizenship
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Rana Zaher
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: The achievement of the Joint List in the elections was made possible by the maturity of its constituents, the presentation of clear vision and objectives, the management of prudent media campaigns, the cumulative experience of parliamentary activity, and the response of Arab citizens to racist statements against them by Jewish politicians. The election of four Arab women for the Knesset on behalf of the Joint List breaks the glass ceiling for the political representation of women in Arab society. Arab women have high electoral potential and can reduce the gender gap between them and men. In the current political configuration in Israel, the Joint List has a significant political power and can no longer be ignored. However, unity has its price as the unique space of each constituent party is shrinking.
  • Topic: Politics, Elections, Women
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Nidal Othman
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Abstract: 96% of the businesses in Arab society are small and miniature businesses, most of which are not defined as "essential enterprises". As a result, they were shut down during part of the Corona crisis. The model of distance working and working from home is not common in Arab society. Only a miniscule proportion of Arab businesses have the potential to operate in this mode and as a result the Corona crisis took a heavy toll on businesses in Arab society. The government made state-guaranteed loans available to small and medium-sized businesses; however, the conditions for eligibility were difficult to fulfil for Arab-owned businesses. Most of the loan applications were rejected, and businesses that managed to meet the conditions were awarded much smaller loans than they had requested. Their financial distress has led many business owners to take out gray market loans at exorbitant interest rates. It is recommended that an interministerial forum be created with representatives of the Ministry of Internal Security, the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry of Economy in cooperation with the Committee of Arab Mayors, with the goal of keeping Arab business owners from entering a vicious circle of crime and violence as a result of the debt they have been forced to take on. Arab business owners need to become organized, whether at the national or local level.
  • Topic: Economics, Business , Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine