Jordan’s New Center for Israel Studies

April 8 2015

Abdullah Swalha, a Jordanian political scientist, thinks Jordanians could benefit from better understanding the state on the other side of their western border. “Why is it,” he asks, “that Israeli think tanks know everything about the Arab world, but that Arab think tanks don’t know anything about Israel?” To this end, he has started the Center for Israel Studies in Amman. Avi Lewis writes:

The . . . Center for Israel Studies [is] an independent nonprofit think tank established in late 2014 that seeks to combat media misinformation surrounding the Jewish state and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by presenting an alternative, [more neutral] view of Israel in Arabic for Jordan’s decision makers, journalists, and wider public. . . .

The man behind the institute, Dr. Abdullah Swalha, wants to see an informed Arab public equipped with the tools to relate, deal, and negotiate with Israel, by presenting the country as an imperfect democracy and model of tolerance, albeit with inequalities between Arab and Jewish citizens and an occupying power still controlling the lives of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank—a far cry from the “Zionist entity” trope widely used for decades in the Arab world as a blanket description for the Jewish state.

“We don’t see the other side of Israel: Israel as a model of democracy, Israel as a model for prosperity, Israel as a state that respects human rights,” Swalha [said].

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, Israeli democracy, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Jordan

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy