What a Recent Assassination Attempt Says about the Coming Palestinian Succession Struggle

March 20 2018

On March 13, the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and its security chief Majid Faraj were in the Gaza Strip on the first visit by high-ranking West Bank officials since the 2007 Hamas takeover. They were greeted with an assassination attempt. To Eran Lerman, the incident seems like a portent of the violent struggle for succession that is likely to follow the death of the aging, and possibly very ill, Mahmoud Abbas:

The attempt to assassinate both Faraj and Hamdallah in Gaza can serve as a rude wake-up call to all who expected the transition period to be orderly. . . .

[A]t the political level, what we end up facing in Ramallah is a weak, divided leadership driven to radical positions by internal rivalries. (Although it’s worth noting that this is what everyone thought would happen in Egypt when Sadat took over in 1970.) There does not seem to be much that Israel or the U.S. can do to reach a better outcome, and no number of sweeteners thrown in by the American government, as it puts the final touches on an administration peace plan, will bring about a different outcome. The “deal of the century” may therefore need to wait . . . until a younger, more effective, and more flexible generation takes over at key positions and can honestly look at the necessary compromises.

Until then, what Israel will need to apply—both in the West Bank and vis-à-vis Gaza—is a sobering dose of sophisticated conflict management. It would be best if Israel would avoid provocative political actions such as partial annexations. Meanwhile, the U.S. administration should focus on shoring up the Palestinian security forces, and on making the rising crop of younger Palestinian [leaders] acutely aware of what they can legitimately expect (a workable two-state solution with territorial contiguity) and what they can’t (total withdrawal with minimal swaps, the majority of settlers uprooted, some recognition of the “right of return,” carving up the living city of Jerusalem). This would establish a new paradigm for a new generation of leaders.

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More about: Fatah, Gaza Strip, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy