Why Bhutan’s Opening to Israel Matters

Dec. 24 2020

Easily lost amidst Jerusalem’s high-profile normalization agreements with Arab states is its recent establishment of diplomatic ties with Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist nation wedged between India and China. The news has not been ignored in India, however, where it was greeted with much enthusiasm. And while Bhutan may not be a country with great strategic, economic, or even symbolic importance, Avi Kumar argues that the development is nonetheless significant:

Israel’s previous lack of ties with Bhutan was not linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but was rather due to Bhutan’s strict isolationist policies. The kingdom has a population of little more than 770,000 citizens and only began allowing tourists in 1970. TV and Internet were permitted only in 1999. [It] has full diplomatic ties with only 53 nations. The new agreement with Israel comes after several years of secret communication between the two countries.

In 2017, the country saw its highest number of tourists, at more than 250,000—up from 2,850 in 1992. . . . Also, [the agreement] opens up new avenues for bilateral cooperation in other sectors such as agriculture, water management, and defense, which will benefit both parties significantly and boost both economies.

Israel’s new ties with this relatively isolated kingdom reflect the fact that the new Middle East landscape President-elect Joe Biden will inherit from President Trump is one where Israel’s role in the world at large is bigger and more significant than it has ever been in its 72-year history.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Israel diplomacy, Israel-India relations

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy