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

 

“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen