It Would Be Absurd for Israel to Snub a Right-Wing High Italian Official

Dec. 13 2018

On Tuesday, Matteo Salvini—the Italian deputy prime minister, minister of the interior, and leader of the right-wing, anti-immigration Lega party—arrived in Israel where he met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other high-ranking officials. Some in Israel have criticized this reception, arguing that Jerusalem should shun Salvini and praising President Reuven Rivlin for declining to meet with him—although Rivlin’s office insists that only scheduling problems prevented him from doing so. Emmanuel Navon comments:

No country in the world would sacrifice its national interest for the sake of moral [preening]. Expecting Israel (and only Israel) to do so is absurd. The question is not whether Israel is also entitled to play by the rules of Realpolitik (of course it is) but whether its policy of rapprochement with Europe’s “populist” governments serves the national interest. The answer is yes—although only to a point. . . .

[Some] European governments and parties, [including Salvini’s], happen to admire Israel for what it represents [in their eyes]: a proud nation-state that is economically successful and . . . has no qualms about defending its borders, about defeating terrorists, and about aggravating Eurocrats. Thanks to its strong ties with [such governments], Israel has been able to break the Brussels consensus. Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Romania, for example, have blocked an EU decision meant to condemn the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. On the issue of Iran, the “Visegrad Group” (the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia) are making it harder for the European Commission to bypass the renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran. Recently, Israel signed a memorandum of understanding with Cyprus, Greece, and Italy to build a pipeline that will enable Israel to export its natural gas to Europe. . . .

[That being said], Israel has no interest . . . in the proliferation of populist governments [in Europe], because these governments generally oppose free trade and are more inclined to align with Russia than with the United States. . . . Israel has a free-trade agreement with the EU and is part of its flagship research-and-development program. [Israel] would therefore not benefit from a Europe dominated by pro-Russian mercantilists. But ad-hoc and calculated links with the governments of Eastern Europe and of Italy do serve, for the time being, Israel’s national interest.

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More about: Europe and Israel, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Italy

 

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