Punish Saudi Arabia, but Don’t Jettison the Alliance

Oct. 18 2018

It now seems clear that the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was abducted and killed by Saudi officials, although whether his death was deliberate is an open question. Yet now is not the time for Washington to jettison its longstanding, and often troublesome, alliance with Riyadh, writes Sohrab Ahmari:

What the Saudis did to Khashoggi was awful and appalling. The Saudis do lots of other awful and appalling things, too. Beheadings. Judicial amputation. Discrimination against the Shiite minority. Outright bans on the practice of religions other than Islam. The global promotion of an especially literal and intolerant brand of Sunni Islam. All of this was well known before Khashoggi walked into the consular trap the Saudis set for him.

Even so, Saudi Arabia isn’t a sworn, systemic enemy of the U.S. or the American-led order in the Middle East. Saudis don’t actively wage war against our forces and interests in the region. Their state is not founded on the mantra of “Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to Britain” (that would be the Islamic Republic of Iran, Riyadh’s archenemy). Washington can’t afford to make another enemy in a part of the world that is already full of them. Remember, too, that if the Saudis can be terrible friends, they can be even worse enemies.

[Moreover], isolating Saudi Arabia would almost certainly doom the diplomatic rapprochement between Jerusalem and Riyadh, among the most astonishing—and welcome—global developments in recent years. . . .

None of this is to suggest that Saudi authorities should be allowed to get away with murdering Khashoggi at their consulate on foreign soil. That would set an unacceptable precedent, all but guaranteeing open season on dissident journalists in a region where they are already an endangered species. But the Western response must be measured. We must be mindful that a cruel order is still better than disorder, that a bitter friendship is still better than enmity and friendlessness, and that no Jeffersonian democrats are waiting in the wings among the Saudis.

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More about: Israel-Arab relations, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Wahhabism

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy