Mahmoud Abbas’s Desperate Boycott Strategy

Feb. 28 2018

As late as 2013, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was sending mixed messages about its relationship with the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS)—a movement that officially claims to be responding to “a call from Palestinian civil society.” The PA’s ambiguity ended by 2015, when the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Central Council (effectively indistinguishable from the PA) urged an international boycott of Israeli goods. David May comments:

In an October 2016 interview with the Arab Weekly, Nabil Shaath, President Mahmoud Abbas’s top foreign-affairs adviser, said that “the Palestinians can still defeat Israel” with the help of a consumer boycott. During his 2017 UN General Assembly speech, Abbas said, “I call on all states to end all forms of direct and indirect involvement with, and support for, the illegal Israeli colonial settlement regime.” . . .

Among the biggest proponents of BDS within Abbas’s inner circle is his Fatah deputy, Mahmoud al-Aloul, [who] has often declared that “all forms of resistance are legitimate,” an allusion to his support for violence against Israelis. . . . According to a March 2017 audio tape obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, Aloul said, “We [i.e., the Palestinian government] have relations with BDS, our people work there, and we have delegates there. We cooperate with BDS on all levels, and not only with BDS: every group whose aim is to boycott Israel, we are with.” . . .

Since 2014, Abbas has eschewed direct talks with Israel, preferring to attack the Jewish state in the international arena and engage in ill-fated reconciliation attempts with the terrorist group Hamas. Now, with his back against the wall, as he finds himself isolated from the Arab states and from the Trump administration, Abbas seems to be embracing economic warfare against Israel as a national strategy. The decision, while perhaps a long time coming, seems to underscore that the aging Palestinian leader has run out of strategies. The move to support economic warfare will almost certainly prove to be an obstacle to peace and undermine Abbas’s remaining legitimacy.

Read more at RealClear World

More about: Abbas, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority

To Undermine Russian and Iranian Influence in Syria, the U.S. Must Go on the Offensive

March 22 2018

When Iranian-lead, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. allies in Syria last month, they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by American firepower. The incident, writes Tony Badran, makes clear that the U.S. has the capability to push back against the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. By taking a more aggressive approach while working closely with Israel, Badran argues, Washington can at once prevent Russia and Iran from cementing their control of Syria and avoid getting drawn into a wider conflict:

Israeli assets can augment U.S. capabilities considerably. A few days after the skirmish in Deir Ezzour in February, Iran flew a drone into Israeli air space. Israel responded by destroying the Iranian command center at the Tiyas military air base near Palmyra, and then proceeded to bomb a large number of Iranian and Assad-regime targets. The episode again underscored the vulnerability of Iran, to say nothing of the brittle Assad regime. Close coordination with Israel to expand this ongoing targeting campaign against Iranian and Hizballah infrastructure, senior cadres, and logistical routes, and amplifying it with U.S. assets in the region, would have a devastating effect on Iran’s position in Syria.

By going on the offensive, the U.S. will also strengthen Israel’s hand with Russia, reducing Jerusalem’s need to petition the Kremlin and thereby diminishing Moscow’s ability to position itself as an arbiter on Israeli security. For instance, instead of haggling with Russia to obtain its commitment to keep Iran five or seven kilometers away from the Israeli border, the U.S. could adopt the Israeli position on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and assist Israel in enforcing it. Such a posture would have a direct effect on another critical ally, Jordan, whose role is of high importance in southern Syria and in the U.S. zone in the east.

Assad and Iran are the scaffolding on which the Russian position stands. Targeting them, therefore, undercuts Moscow and reduces its leverage. By merely forcing Russia to respect Israeli and Jordanian needs on the border, the U.S. would undermine Russia’s attempt, more generally, to leverage its position in Syria to make headway into the U.S. alliance system. In addition to adopting a more offensive military posture, the U.S. should also intensify the economic chokehold on Assadist Syria.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy