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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Read more at American Jewish Committee

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

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey