Israel Shouldn’t Get Its Hopes Up about Iraq

In 2018, multiple delegations of prominent Iraqis—including both Shiites and Sunnis—made sub-rosa visits to Israel; some Iraqi parliamentarians were apparently among them. News of the visits, which only became public a few weeks ago, sparked outrage in Iraq, and the speaker of the country’s parliament called for a formal investigation to identify and punish any officials who had contact with the Jewish state. To Edy Cohen, this reaction, together with prior experience, should be a warning to Jerusalem in its pursuit of ties with Baghdad:

Iraq is a failed state. Though one of the world’s most richly endowed countries in terms of natural resources, it is unable to provide its residents with such elementary needs as electricity and drinking water. Iraqis are sick and tired of their miserable existence. They are loath to see their oil and other natural treasures plundered by Iran, which has come to dominate Iraq through its proxy Shiite militias ever since Saddam’s downfall. Eager to free themselves of Iranian domination at any price, Iraqis are now asking for Israel’s military assistance in return for empty promises of peace. Unfortunately, Israel is allocating substantial resources toward this hopeless end.

There are [also] tens of thousands of Iraqi migrants in Europe who are unable to return to their homeland. They hope Israel will help remove the Iranians from Iraq and promise peace when they return home and take control of the government. And so Iraq joins the list of Arab actors that seek Israeli aid in return for hollow promises of a future peace, paying the same kind of lip service paid by the Lebanese Christians in the 1980s and most recently by the Syrian opposition.

Peace with Iraq is still light years away. In October 2017, the Iraqi parliament passed a law prohibiting the raising of the Israeli flag in the country and punishing violators with jail time. As adamant as Israeli policymakers claim to be about learning from past experiences, they should at the very least read the present situation correctly.

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More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians