Israeli Coordination with Arab States Isn’t New. Talking about It Is

Much has been made of the recent high-level contacts between Israel and Sunni Arab states, including those with which it has no formal relations. But such contacts have been fairly common since the 1990s, even if largely unacknowledged. What is new, writes David Pollock, is the public debate about the subject in the Arabic media:

Particularly noteworthy . . . is a long article in the current issue of the popular and influential pan-Arab weekly al-Majalla, based in London but widely circulated and read in both print and online editions [throughout the Middle East]. This article not only reviews the long history of Arab-Israeli relations, but also cites statements [on the subject] by the Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer at great length.

Responses [to this article] by Saudi writers are mixed, but some are very vocally in favor of dealing with Israel. . . . Among Egyptian writers, the idea of regular dealings with Israel still excites fierce debate, even after nearly four decades of official peace. . . . [But] even some Egyptian writers and academics most critical of ties to Israel acknowledge that the younger generation, turned against Iran, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood both by their own experience and by their government’s changing positions, is losing some of its animosity toward [the Jewish state]. . . .

While Arab publics overwhelmingly dislike Israel (and Jews), solid majorities in most recent surveys, on the order of 60 percent, nevertheless voice support for a “two-state solution,” which implies peace with the Jewish state. And they do so even when the question is worded to call explicitly for peace with Israel, or for abandoning the struggle to liberate all of Palestine. The exception . . . is the Palestinian public in the West Bank and Gaza, where support for a two-state solution has lately fallen to just below the halfway mark. . . .

The conclusion is clear: today a broader regional approach to Arab-Israeli peacemaking, rather than a strictly bilateral Israeli-Palestinian one, offers somewhat better prospects of success—whether at the official, elite, media, or even popular levels. Normalization with Israel remains controversial in Arab circles, but it is no longer taboo. . . . The next U.S. administration would do well to ponder this unaccustomed situation, and to adjust its policies accordingly.

Read more at Washington Institute

More about: Arab anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, Palestinian public opinion

The State Department Seems to Be Covering Up Palestinian Incitement

July 26 2017

Last week, the U.S. State Department released its annual report on global terrorism in the year 2016, and, for apparently the tenth consecutive year, the report defended the Palestinian Authority in language identical or nearly identical to that used in years before. For example, the 2016 report notes that “The PA has taken significant steps during President [Mahmoud] Abbas’s tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence.” That same sentence also appeared in the department’s reports for 2015, 2014 and 2013. Similar repetition of language from those years and years earlier can be found across the report.

What’s going on? “Two prominent former Israeli diplomats are charging that the State Department is recycling parts of its old reports in order to whitewash the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) incitement to violence,” Rafael Medoff writes, quoting the former Israeli diplomat Alan Baker:

[According to Baker], State Department officials seem to be “taking previous reports and copying them, making slight changes where they consider it relevant,” instead of objectively assessing the PA’s most recent behavior.

Baker said that not only has the PA failed to take “significant steps” against incitement, but “the opposite is the case—their own actions, statements and publications, naming streets and squares after terrorists, formally paying fees to terrorist families, all point to a distinctive step backward in violation of Palestinian commitments pursuant to the Oslo Accords.”

The result, Baker said, is that “the Palestinians see it as a license to continue and as support for their struggle. If the State Department closes a blind eye, this is tantamount to giving a green light.”

[According to a second Israeli diplomat], the State Department slants its reports about the PA because the department “fears that its own words will be used to buttress congressional efforts to cut aid to the PA. . . . ”

Read more at JNS

More about: Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs, State Department