Uri Avnery Was No Hero

Following the death in August of the Israeli journalist and politician Uri Avnery, many Israeli public figures—even those who had once been or would seem to be his ideological opponents—have praised him for his dedication to peace. President Reuven Rivlin, for instance, commended Avnery’s “ambition to build a free and strong society” in Israel. Yet, writes Raphael Bouchnik-Chen, we should not forget the destruction wrought by Avnery’s most significant achievement: his unofficial and unauthorized diplomacy with Yasir Arafat, which would eventually lead to the Oslo Accords:

On July 3, 1982, [Avnery met] with the Palestine Liberation Organization’s leader Yasir Arafat in West Beirut in the midst of the first Lebanon war. Arafat himself admitted that Avnery was the first Israeli he had ever met, making him the pioneer who “broke the dam” for the many Israeli left-wing activists who followed. . . . The event was utilized by Avnery, [who was then a reporter], as an international scoop as well as an opportunity to show Arafat as a human being rather than a demonized monster. . . .

While praising Avnery’s meeting with Arafat in Beirut, his admirers intentionally ignored, or at least omitted . . . the fact that the PLO leader [was being trailed] by Israeli intelligence. . . . Though Avnery, who most likely knew this, claimed to have risked his life by attending the meeting, he knew he could rely on the restraint of the Israeli military not to attempt an assassination of Arafat in such circumstances.

Avnery used a similar tactic when visiting Arafat at his headquarters in Ramallah, [in which he] operated as a human shield for Arafat. Striking evidence of this can be found in Avnery’s article entitled “Human Shield.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli left, Oslo Accords, Peace Process, Yasir Arafat

 

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