Israeli Sovereignty in Jerusalem Is Necessary for Regional Stability—and Arab Rulers Know It

Nov. 16 2017

Revisiting this summer’s Temple Mount crisis—when a Palestinian terrorist attack prompted new Israeli security measures, which in turn prompted more Palestinian violence—Eran Lerman situates it in the context of the geopolitical and ideological rivalries that divide the Middle East as a whole. The violence was largely incited by Hamas and its Israeli Arab equivalent, the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. Both organizations are part of a larger camp consisting of Qatar, Turkey, and the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other side are the “moderate” Sunni states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. The latter group, which has grown increasingly friendly to Israel, wants to maintain the current situation on the Mount, with Israel and Jordan sharing control over the holy places lest these be seized by the Brotherhood. Lerman explains:

Relinquishing Israel’s sovereignty over the Holy Basin and the Temple Mount would result in Palestinian takeover of all the holy sites. Yasir Arafat, after all, liked to compare himself to Caliph Omar (the [7th-century] Muslim conqueror of Jerusalem), who signed a treaty with the Christians in the city without addressing any Jewish rights. . . . Under these circumstances, if Israel ever relinquished control, Jordan would lose its status and legitimacy. Under pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood camp (which, without the help of Israel, the Palestinian Authority would not be able to withstand), the Temple Mount would become a pivotal historic symbol of the victory of radical Islam.

This is a result that most of the Arab world today would view as disastrous. Israel’s sovereignty over a unified Jerusalem, especially in the Holy Basin, is therefore the vital cornerstone for continued viability of the [moderate Sunni] camp and for the prospect of regional stability. This will remain true as along as Israel’s leadership continues to act cautiously, judiciously, and with an informed assessment of internal Arab dynamics. . . .

[The events this summer] indicate that the key elements in the regional political arena are not enthusiastic about investing extraordinary efforts in order to achieve a permanent final-status agreement that would lead to a solution to [the Israel-Palestinian conflict]. But they do have a clear interest . . . in sagacious management by Israel of the situation in the territories and in Jerusalem, without letting intermittent skirmishes deteriorate into high-visibility conflict. [Such a deterioration] would only play into the hands of hostile elements from the radical camps.

Viewed in this light, Israel’s decision to remove the security cameras it installed on the Temple Mount should be seen not as a shameful capitulation to Palestinian demands—as some on the Israeli right have argued—but as a willing compromise in order to maintain good relations with Jordan and its allies, which need to deliver symbolic concessions to their populations.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Israel & Zionism, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian terror, Temple Mount

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy