Israel’s Former Defense Minister on the Turmoil in the Middle East

April 20 2017

Describing the current situation in the Middle East as “the greatest crisis since the days of Muhammad,” Moshe Yaalon explains how Israel can remain secure in the face of a host of threats and points the best way forward in the conflict with the Palestinians:

I supported the Oslo process at the beginning; I value human life more than land, and I’m not messianic. I [also] believe that, on the one hand, there is no chance on the horizon of reaching a final settlement. Yasir Arafat was not ready to accept such an arrangement when negotiations were based on the 1967 lines and the dividing of Jerusalem. He was not ready then, and Mahmoud Abbas is not ready today to state that he will consider [such an agreement] a viable end to the conflict. In other words, he is not ready to recognize Israel’s right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people in any boundaries.

On the other hand, I do not want to rule the Palestinians or annex them. This means we have to make our own decisions about annexations . . . and on where to settle. If we wish the Palestinians to be a political entity, we cannot settle everywhere. We must also make progress on the economy, infrastructure, and security. . . .

There is a fundamental problem regarding the dream of Oslo, and it is that the promotion of terror still exists in Palestinian refugee camps. If you educate the young generation that Palestine exists from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, and that there is no room for concessions, and that “Tel Aviv is the biggest settlement,” then you are not preparing your people for co-existence and reconciliation. The people of Tel Aviv don’t understand that these Palestinians see them as settlers. Young kids are educated to hate us—as Israelis, as Jews, as Zionists. You can see it by watching Palestinian television programs for children, or reading their textbooks. It is shocking. This was my personal awakening in 1995 while serving as head of intelligence under Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin.

Read more at BICOM

More about: Israel & Zionism, Middle East, Oslo Accords, Two-State Solution, Yasir Arafat

Winning Islam’s War of Ideas, Saudi-Style

March 19 2018

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. policymakers have understood the need to confront jihadism not only militarily but also ideologically; yet, writes John Hannah, they have had little success. Now Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’ reformist crown prince, appears willing and able to take up the fight, and Hannah urges Washington to support his efforts:

By an order of magnitude, al-Qaeda in 2018 enjoys a larger presence in more countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia than it did the day the Twin Towers were felled. . . . What’s consistently been missing from America’s strategy have been powerful partners in the Muslim world who can reliably be counted on to speak out authoritatively on matters of Islamic theology in ways that the United States simply cannot. That’s where Saudi Arabia comes in. It’s the birthplace of Islam and host to the faith’s two holiest mosques. Combined with abundant oil wealth, these assets bestow on the Saudis a measure of soft-power influence unrivaled in the Muslim world. . . .

For months, the crown prince and his closest advisers have relentlessly hammered the theme that Saudi Arabia’s modernization requires an embrace of “moderate Islam.” He’s slammed the extremist ideology that the kingdom did so much to empower after the Iranian revolution and acknowledges that “the problem spread all over the world.” . . . At home, the powers of the kingdom’s notorious religious police have been scaled back. Prominent hardline clerics have been jailed. On the all-important issue of female empowerment, the pace of change has been breathtaking. . . .

Now the U.S. imperative should be pressing Mohammed bin Salman to take his campaign for moderate Islam on the road. . . . There should be multiple elements to such an effort, but some immediate tasks come to mind. First, school textbooks. The Saudis promised to eliminate the hate-filled passages a decade ago. Progress has slowly been made, but the job’s still not done. Mohammed bin Salman should order it finished—this year. Behind the scenes, U.S. experts should provide verification.

Second, working with trusted partners in indigenous communities known for their religious moderation, the Saudis should conduct a thorough audit of the global network of mosques, schools, and charitable organizations that they’ve backed with an eye toward weeding out radical staff and content. Third, [they should] initiate a worldwide buyback of Saudi-distributed mistranslations of the Quran and other religious materials notorious for propagating extremist narratives.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Moderate Islam, Politics & Current Affairs, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, War on Terror