2017: Israel’s Year of Diplomatic Triumph

Jan. 29 2018

From West Africa to Australia and from France to Colombia, the Jewish state has managed over the past year to improve its ties with friendly nations and forge new bonds with countries that had once been hostile, or at least chilly. Benjamin Netanyahu’s official visit to India, and American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, are but the most recent such developments. To Eran Lerman, the example of Singapore is especially instructive:

In the past, the robust relationship between Israel and Singapore was formed by the security sector and was predominantly conducted in secret. (IDF officers, under the guise of “Mexican instructors,” were involved in building the small island nation’s ability to defend itself since its earliest days). Israel’s President Chaim Herzog’s visit in 1986 nearly sparked a military confrontation between Singapore and its Muslim neighbor Malaysia. Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin’s visit in 1993 was abrupt and unofficial.

[By contrast], the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin’s participation in the [2015] funeral of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew—one of the greatest statesmen of the previous century—raised no objections. In April of 2016, Lee Hsien Loong (his son, who today serves as prime minister) came to Israel for a visit that was the first of its kind. He even publicly addressed the issue of security assistance and the depth of the ties between the two countries. This new and overt stage in the relations between the two countries manifested itself by the time Netanyahu made his reciprocal visit.

Lerman explains what he sees as the reasons for the recent diplomatic moves, and their limitations:

The emerging transformation of attitudes toward Israel is founded, first and foremost, on an ever-widening recognition of the nature and severity of the common strategic challenge which totalitarian Islamism poses to many of the world’s countries. Along with this comes the growing appreciation of the benefits offered by a closer partnership with Israel in a variety of fields, including security and economics, innovation, and technology.

It is also easier to associate with Israel today due to Israel’s prudent management of the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel’s strategy of measured and low-key response to Palestinian provocations is proving to be a wise, long-term strategic approach. . . .

Of course, Israel’s diplomatic hardships are not yet a thing of the past. Israel’s positions on the Palestinian issue and on the future of Jerusalem have not been well received in Europe, including by close allies like Germany. The automatic majority against Israel in the UN General Assembly, even if it has been reduced, still exists. Russia’s policy in Syria and its close ties to Iran are troubling. The BDS movement is still active, and has scored occasional successes.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Terrorism

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat