No, Israel Doesn’t Prefer Undemocratic Regimes in the Middle East

Sept. 16 2020

Last month, with the announcement of the peace agreement—signed yesterday—between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, one respected expert on the Arab world averred that “it’s hard to imagine an Arab country, if it were democratic, striking a peace deal with Israel” and that, moreover, “Israel, one of the region’s few democracies, prefers that its Arab neighbors not be democratic.” Some have taken this line of reasoning one step further, to suggest that Jerusalem is in some sense propping up Arab dictatorships. Nonsense, writes Seth Frantzman:

It was the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East in the 1950s that led the drive against relations with Israel. . . . These dictatorships inflamed a generation and brainwashed people against Israel, even as [they] normalized with other states that [with whom they had conflicts]; e.g., despite the India-Pakistan conflict, no one suggested not recognizing India forever. [By contrast], Israel always had relations with democracies.

[Furthermore], the argument that average citizens in the Middle East oppose Israel, and therefore Israel “needs” dictatorships is flawed. The public that was propagandized against Israel is sometimes hostile. However this is mostly a historical aberration. Israel had relationships with democracies like Turkey, and Iranians would make peace with Israel if not for their regime. Kurds would also be open to Israel if not for Saddam and then Iran occupying Baghdad.

Next, we need to ask why Israel is singled out for being responsible for “authoritarianism” in the Middle East when every single other nation in the world has relations with countries like Saudi Arabia.It is only [considered] a problem for Israel to have relations with the UAE. But when the U.S. or France has relations with the UAE or when Switzerland embraces Iran, it’s fine? This makes no sense.

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Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Arab democracy, Bahrain, Israel diplomacy, United Arab Emirates

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy