A New Strategy for the Israel-Palestinian Conflict: Tell the Truth

Jan. 30 2017

For decades, the American government has implicitly and explicitly adopted the Arab narrative about the Palestinians. Thus, ranking U.S. officials have spoken as if Jews and Palestinians have equal claim to Jerusalem, refused to admit that west Jerusalem is Israel’s capital (or even part of Israel), pretended that the “right of return” of Palestinian “refugees” (really the descendants of refugees) is seriously up for negotiation, and acted as if Palestinian society or its leadership is sincerely interested in peace. Max Singer argues that Washington can do much good by insisting on the truth:

The biggest falsehood the U.S. needs to expose is that there exists “Palestinian territory” that Israel refuses to “give back” because of its expansionist ambitions and purported security needs. It would be controversial, rather than a falsehood, to say that justice and peace require Israel to turn over to a Palestinian state all or almost all the land it seized in its defensive war in 1967. But there is a big difference between the controversial statement that the West Bank should become Palestinian territory as part of a peace agreement and the false statement that these areas are now, or ever were in the past, Palestinian territory.

The distinction . . . determines whether Israeli proposals to provide land for a Palestinian state are returning stolen property or are offers to give up disputed land to which it has serious claims, in order to make a healthy peace with its neighbor. From the Palestinian point of view, [this is the difference] between an immoral submission to a thief who has more power and a wise compromise with neighbors who have overlapping claims of right. . . .

[Similarly], if the Palestinian people knew the truth [about Jews’ historical ties to the land of Israel], they might be more willing to accept a Jewish state on part of this land. This suggests that it might be constructive for the U.S. to remind the Palestinians that according to Islamic tradition, the Temple Mount was built by Jews as the site of the Jewish Temple. . . .

If Israel were a stranger to the land, simply a colonial power taking Arab land by force, as the Palestinians falsely argue, it would be cowardly for them to yield. [F]orcing Palestinians to acknowledge Israel’s historical and moral claim to the land would provide them with an honorable basis for compromise. . . . When the American and European democracies accept Palestinian falsehoods, it creates a disincentive for the Palestinians and their supporters to face the realities of their situation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, U.S. Foreign policy

Reengaging the Syrian Government Has Brought Jordan an Influx of Narcotics, but Little Stability

As Syria’s civil war drags on, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown, Arab states that had anathematized his regime for its brutal treatment of its own people have gradually begun to rebuild economic and diplomatic relations. There are also those who believe the West should do the same. The case of Jordan, argues Charles Lister, shows the folly of such a course of action:

Despite having been a longtime and pivotally important backer of Syria’s armed anti-Assad opposition since 2012, Jordan flipped in 2017 and 2018, eventually stepping forward to greenlight a brutal, Russian-coordinated Syrian-regime campaign against southern Syria in the summer of 2018. Amman’s reasoning for turning against Syria’s opposition was its desire for stability along its border, to create conditions amenable to refugee returns, and to rid southern Syria of Islamic State cells as well as an extensive Iranian and Hizballah presence.

As hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were swiftly besieged and indiscriminately bombed from the ground and air, Jordan forced its yearslong Free Syrian Army partners to surrender, according to interviews I conducted with commanders at the time. In exchange, they were promised by Jordan a Russian-guaranteed reconciliation process.

Beyond the negligible benefit of resuming trade, Russia’s promise of “reconciliation” has resolutely failed. Syria’s southern province of Daraa is now arguably the most unstable region in the country, riddled with daily insurgent attacks, inter-factional strife, targeted assassinations, and more. Within that chaos, which Russia has consistently failed to resolve, not only does Iran remain in place alongside Hizballah and a network of local proxy militias but Iran and its proxies have expanded their reach and influence, commanding some 150 military facilities across southern Syria. Islamic State, too, continues to conduct sporadic attacks in the area.

Although limited drug smuggling has always existed across the Syria-Jordan border, the scale of the Syrian drug trade has exploded in the last two years. The most acute spike occurred (and has since continued) immediately after the Jordanian king Abdullah II’s decision to speak with Assad on the phone in October 2021. Since then, dozens of people have been killed in border clashes associated with the Syrian drug trade, and although Jordan had previously been a transit point toward the prime market in the Persian Gulf, it has since become a key market itself, with Captagon use in the country now described as an “epidemic,” particularly among young people and amid a 30-percent unemployment rate.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Drugs, Jordan, Middle East, Syrian civil war