Why the Palestinians Are Right to be Worried by Israel’s Outreach to Muslim Countries

The Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic State, Iranian expansionism, the war in Yemen, and other recent events have stripped all credibility from the idea of “linkage”—that any solution to the region’s problems must begin with a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. With Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent official visit to Oman, and the president of Chad’s recent visit to Jerusalem, a second “linkage” is also eroding—namely, the idea that improvement of Israel’s relations with Arab and Muslim countries depends on its having achieved peace with the Palestinians. Shmuel Rosner writes:

Egypt was the first country to erode this linkage when it signed a peace agreement with Israel (with provisions aimed at advancing a solution for the Palestinians). Jordan likewise signed a peace agreement with Israel in the early 1990s, when Israel and the Palestinians seemed for a while as if they were moving toward resolution.

The situation today is much changed. It is clear that Israelis and Palestinians are not moving toward peace. It is also clear that when Arab Muslim countries get closer to Israel, they are not doing it because of the Palestinian issue but rather in spite of it. They are doing it because they have other priorities—concerns about Iran, economic or technological needs Israel can satisfy, or political needs that can be addressed through Israel’s ties in Washington. . . .

On November 25, the president of Chad, Idriss Déby, visited Israel. Chad is a poor, corrupt country in the middle of Africa that is plagued by political violence and ranked very high on the failed-state index. Déby has dealt with rebellions and coups d’état attempts since he first became president in 1990. Chad has little to contribute to Israel—except on the issue of linkage. It has a narrow Muslim majority, and in the early 1970s it severed ties with Israel under pressure from Saudi Arabia, Libya, and other Arab countries in an attempt by the Arab world to keep Israel illegitimate. . . .

Now that the second linkage seems to be dying, or maybe is dead, the Palestinians are no doubt following this process with apprehension. It takes away one of the key tools they used in their battle with Israel: the power of the Arab and Muslim world to put pressure on the Jewish state. For Israel, it’s a triumph. It carries the hope that the Palestinians will finally realize that time is not necessarily on their side.

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More about: Africa, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Hizballah Prepares for War, and UN Peacekeepers Do Nothing

Dec. 10 2018

According to last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 2373, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)—the peacekeeping force created after the Second Lebanon War to keep both Israel and Hizballah out of southern Lebanon—is authorized “to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.” If anything ought to rouse UNIFIL to action, writes Elliott Abrams, it should be the IDF’s recent discovery and destruction of tunnels dug by Hizballah to move troops into the Galilee:

The existence of these tunnels, dug from precisely the area of southern Lebanon that UNIFIL is meant to patrol, means that this area is indeed “utilized for hostile activities.” What, then, is the meaning of [UNIFIL’s statement in] response that it “will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon”? The meaning is that UNIFIL will likely do nothing.

UNIFIL is not supposed to be merely a means of communication, or the Security Council would have bought cell phones instead of paying for a military force. Moreover, there are no “appropriate authorities” in Lebanon; if there were, Hizballah would never have been able to dig its tunnels.

The tunnels are hardly the only brazen Hizballah violation of the Security Council resolutions undertaken right under UNIFIL’s nose. Consider this: Hizballah is blocking roads in southern Lebanon to smooth the path of missiles it is moving into the area. . . . Then there is the village of Gila, just north of the Israeli border, where there is a Hizballah headquarters and according to the Israelis about twenty warehouses with weapons, combat positions, lookout points, and dozens of underground positions. All this was built in an area supposedly patrolled by UNIFIL. . . .

This is a test of UNIFIL and its new commander, [Stefan Del Col, who took over in August]. “Communicating” to “appropriate authorities” is a euphemism for doing nothing at all. Hizballah is preparing for war. UNIFIL is supposed to get in its way. If it cannot hinder Hizballah’s war preparations in any way, and is even ignorant of them, UNIFIL is a waste of time and money.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, United Nations