The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan

Israel seized the Golan Heights—an area whose Jewish history goes back to biblical times—from Syria during the Six-Day War and formally applied Israeli law there in 1981. While the U.S. has from time to time encouraged or pressured Jerusalem to enter negotiations for returning the territory to Damascus, any such idea, given Syria’s current state of affairs, is at present a nonstarter. Therefore, argue Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Lapid, it’s high time for Washington, and the rest of the world, to recognize Israeli sovereignty there:

The Golan Heights is . . . a mountainous region of around 695 square miles in the north of Israel. It’s worth noting, of course, that [the region] is entirely unrelated to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. Not a single Palestinian lives there. . . . The Syrians . . . ruled over the Golan Heights for only 21 years, from 1946 and 1967. During those years they turned the Golan into a military base, rained rocket fire on the Israeli communities [below], and tried to divert Israel’s critical water sources. . . .

In the 51 years [it has controlled the area], Israel developed the Golan Heights and turned it into an impressive center of nature reserves and tourism, with high-tech agriculture, award-winning wines, a flourishing food-tech industry, and in-demand boutique hotels. The Druze population of the Golan Heights, who make up about half the population, were granted all the same rights as all other citizens of Israel. . . .

On the other side of the border, life went in the other direction; in the past seven years President Assad has massacred over a half-million of his own people and [caused] the displacement of eleven million more. He let the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah, the largest terror organizations in the world, into Syria. He encouraged Shiite militias from Iraq and elsewhere to flood into his country. . . .

The man who didn’t hesitate to use chemical weapons against women and children continues to demand the Golan Heights in the name of “international law.” The fact that anyone in the Western world still takes that argument seriously is worse than naïve—it’s insane. Does his monstrous behavior have no cost? . . . The international community, led by the United States, needs to do the simple thing: to announce that they see the world as it is.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Druze, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood