An Arab-Israeli Politician Has Taken a Definitive Step Away from Anti-Zionism. How Will Jewish Politicians Respond?

Nov. 20 2020

In recent weeks, the Knesset member Mansour Abbas, the leader of the religiously conservative Islamic party Ra’am, has drawn increasingly close to Likud—to the ire of his colleagues in the Joint Arab List, a bloc consisting of several Arab parties. His actions and statements represent a dramatic rejection of the traditional Arab political attitude of permanent opposition to whichever party is in power. Criticizing those Israelis who would see this development through the narrow lens of their distaste for Benjamin Netanyahu, Michael Milshtein praises Abbas for his “principled” approach:

Abbas himself makes it clear that after many years of adhering to the slogans [that dominate Israeli Arab politics] and a genuine unwillingness to cross the line when it comes to [cooperating with the] government, he is willing to break conventions to [improve the lot] of Arab Israelis. . . . Abbas is not alone in this and in recent months similar comments of cooperation have been heard from other opinion makers. They are expressing the prevailing mood of an Arab public frustrated by the fact that its unprecedented electoral achievements in recent years have not swayed the Joint List out of its refusal to become more involved in governance.

Abbas is to a large extent a revolutionary. He has broken out of the pattern of identity politics, which automatically puts all Arabs on the same side of the political map and in the pockets of the leftist camp.

In terms of its political approach, [Ra’am] is similar to the other Arab parties, but socially and ideologically it is closer to the [Jewish] religious parties, which is reflected in the party’s opposition to the ban on “conversion therapies” [for homosexuals], a position that caused a stir among the Arab public.

The ball is currently in the court of Jewish politics and society. Now the Jewish side must also show an ability to change, and especially its willingness to open the gates of the major parties and coalitions to those who approach from the heart of Arab society.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Joint List, Knesset, Likud

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations