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

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations