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What the Saudi Crown Prince Said about Israel, and What He Didn’t

April 9 2018

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman made headlines in an interview when he acknowledged that Israelis “have the right to their own land.” Jonathan Tobin cautions against exaggerating the significance of this statement:

While important, it should also be understood what the statement from the prince—popularly known as “MBS”—doesn’t mean. His comments shouldn’t be confused with a formal declaration of Saudi recognition of the Jewish state. . . . It’s also true that Saudi outreach to Israel is not entirely new. The Saudis put forth a proposal in 2002 that called for recognition of Israel and ending the conflict. But that so-called Arab peace initiative had its flaws. Initially, it linked peace to the “right of return” for descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Since then, the Saudis have dropped that part and made the proposed plan more acceptable to Israel, and it remains a talking point for some on the Jewish left who insist that there is an offer on the table that Israel hasn’t embraced.

That isn’t true, as Israel has informally discussed the initiative with the Saudis for years. However, the explanation for the failure of the plan and the motivation for the crown prince’s latest Western charm offensive rests primarily in the failure of the Palestinians to take the hint with respect to Israel. . . .

The key event preceding the Saudi crown prince’s statement came earlier this year when, in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Mahmoud Abbas journeyed to Riyadh. The message he reportedly got there was a Saudi demand that he accept what the United States was offering in terms of a two-state solution. The Saudis even offered serious financial support for him if he was willing to make peace and become part of an anti-Iran alliance. Abbas’s reply was that no Palestinian leader could accept such a deal. . . .

So when MBS spoke of a Jewish right to a “land,” he wasn’t so much speaking to Donald Trump or Benjamin Netanyahu, who realize that the Saudis look to Israel as an ally against an Iranian foe that they, as the prince stated, regard as worse than Hitler. Rather, it was a message to Abbas, Hamas, and the Palestinian people, emphasizing that if they are determined to persist in their century-old war on Zionism, then they can do it without any help from the Saudis.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security