Saudi Arabia Isn’t Destabilizing Lebanon, It’s Trying to Rescue It

Nov. 20 2017

On November 4, in the midst of a major internal shakeup in Riyadh, Saad Hariri gave a press conference there announcing his resignation as prime minister of Lebanon, citing the terrorist group Hizballah’s control of his country as the cause. There is little doubt that the Saudis encouraged the decision. While some commentators have accused the kingdom of fomenting chaos in already fragile Lebanon, Elliott Abrams argues that it is responding rationally to reality:

The Saudis are no longer willing to prop up Lebanon while it serves as the base for Hizballah’s military and terrorist activities in league with Iran. . . . It is not [the Saudi crown prince] Mohammed bin Salman . . . who is bringing danger to Lebanon; it is not the Saudis who are bringing Lebanon into the region’s wars; it is not Saudi policy that threatens to collapse Lebanon’s coalition politics. It is the actions of Hizballah, abandoning any [supposed] national role in order to act as Iran’s enforcer and foreign legion.

What the Saudis are doing is saying: enough—let’s start describing Lebanese reality instead of burying it. Let’s stop financing a situation that allows Hizballah to feed off the Lebanese state, dominate that state, and use it as a launching pad for terror and aggression in the Middle East, all on Iran’s behalf.

There is of course no guarantee that this approach will succeed: the Lebanese may be too terrified of Hizballah. And success will require action by the United States and its allies, particularly France. If all of Lebanon’s friends took the same approach, demanding that Hizballah’s grip on the country and the state be limited, we might embolden Lebanon’s citizens and its politicians to protest Hizballah’s chokehold. Economic assistance to Lebanon and military assistance to its army should be made dependent on their pushing back against Hizballah and regaining Lebanese independence. The price Lebanon pays for Hizballah should be made far clearer, and the advantages Hizballah gains from its control of Lebanon should be reduced—and made far more controversial.

Are these outrageous demands? On the contrary, they are in fact required by UN Security Council resolution 1701, adopted in August 2006 to end the war between Hizballah and Israel.

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Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, Second Lebanon War, U.S. Foreign policy

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem