After More Than Half a Century of Reluctance, the Druze of the Golan Are Embracing Israel

For decades, the Druze who live in the Golan Heights have overwhelmingly remained loyal to Syria—which held the territory until 1967—and declined to obtain Israeli citizenship. But when the Syrian civil war broke out ten years ago, their economic ties with their brethren across the border were severed, the possibility of Jerusalem relinquishing the Golan became ever more distant, and Syrian rule seemed to offer little defense against Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Hizballah and exposure to the depredations of Bashar al-Assad. Attitudes towards the Jewish state are experiencing a sea-change as a result, writes Jonathan Shamir:

[W]hile Druze in the Galilee region to the south have been a loyal minority who serve in the Israel Defense Forces and are part-and-parcel of Israeli society, the Druze on the Golan historically looked eastward. In the past, free tuition and monthly stipends from the Syrian government lured thousands of Druze to study in Syria. However, after the war began, enrolment ground to a halt. Hundreds or even thousands of Golan Druze had graduated from Syrian universities, but those who were studying at Damascus University when the war broke out transferred to universities in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

In the immediate years following the start of the war, the numbers of students from the Golan Heights studying in Israeli universities spiked and many then opted to work in Israel. . . . The government, meanwhile, increased investment in the area, with a multimillion-shekel plan between 2014 and 2017 for the development of Druze regional councils, which [Roaa Khater, the director of education in a Druze village], believes pulled the community toward Israel.

The local community used to know everyone who took Israeli citizenship, and these people would be ostracized, [another Druze] recounts. When they [met people at] weddings, funerals, or in the streets, they would be shunned.

The situation is different today, however; . . . 20.6 percent of the Syrian [Druze] in the Golan Heights held an Israeli passport in March 2018, [and] the rate of applications for citizenship has spiked since the onset of the war. The younger generation, in particular, knows Syria only from stories but Israel from experience. Given all of this, the social stigma is slowly dissipating.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Druze, Golan Heights, Israeli society, Syrian civil war

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood