Joe Biden Shouldn’t Object to Israeli Officials Accompanying Him to a Palestinian Hospital

July 15 2022

Today, President Biden is expected to visit the Augusta Victoria hospital in eastern Jerusalem, which since 1948 has provided healthcare to Palestinians under the auspices of the Lutheran World Federation. Israeli officials had wished to accompany the president, but his team denied the request. To Robert Silverman, this was an “ill-considered” decision:

First, allowing an Israeli presence on the visit is consistent with the policy of recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Conversely, denying such a presence looks like a small step toward the former U.S. policy, when the U.S. saw Jerusalem not as part of Israel but as a corpus separatum (Latin for “separated body”), whose status would be decided in future negotiations. That policy was rejected first by Congress and later by administrations of both parties. It didn’t facilitate negotiations with the Palestinians and a return to it in any form would be a surprise to all.

Second, history matters in Jerusalem. Augusta Victoria Hospital is not only an important Palestinian institution located in the city of Jerusalem. . . . Founded in 1898 by Kaiser Wilhelm as a hostel for German pilgrims and named after his wife, it . . . remained Germany’s flagship site in the Holy Land, serving as a German military hospital during World War I, a German Lutheran church and later as a Nazi Party meeting site in the 1930s. During that period, the hostel barred Jewish visitors.

This information and much more is available on Augusta Victoria’s Wikipedia site. Once again barring Jews from entering Augusta Victoria seems tin-eared public policy, not designed to influence either the Israelis or the Palestinians along the way to coexistence and eventual peace.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Jerusalem, Lutheranism, US-Israel relations

Reengaging the Syrian Government Has Brought Jordan an Influx of Narcotics, but Little Stability

As Syria’s civil war drags on, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown, Arab states that had anathematized his regime for its brutal treatment of its own people have gradually begun to rebuild economic and diplomatic relations. There are also those who believe the West should do the same. The case of Jordan, argues Charles Lister, shows the folly of such a course of action:

Despite having been a longtime and pivotally important backer of Syria’s armed anti-Assad opposition since 2012, Jordan flipped in 2017 and 2018, eventually stepping forward to greenlight a brutal, Russian-coordinated Syrian-regime campaign against southern Syria in the summer of 2018. Amman’s reasoning for turning against Syria’s opposition was its desire for stability along its border, to create conditions amenable to refugee returns, and to rid southern Syria of Islamic State cells as well as an extensive Iranian and Hizballah presence.

As hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were swiftly besieged and indiscriminately bombed from the ground and air, Jordan forced its yearslong Free Syrian Army partners to surrender, according to interviews I conducted with commanders at the time. In exchange, they were promised by Jordan a Russian-guaranteed reconciliation process.

Beyond the negligible benefit of resuming trade, Russia’s promise of “reconciliation” has resolutely failed. Syria’s southern province of Daraa is now arguably the most unstable region in the country, riddled with daily insurgent attacks, inter-factional strife, targeted assassinations, and more. Within that chaos, which Russia has consistently failed to resolve, not only does Iran remain in place alongside Hizballah and a network of local proxy militias but Iran and its proxies have expanded their reach and influence, commanding some 150 military facilities across southern Syria. Islamic State, too, continues to conduct sporadic attacks in the area.

Although limited drug smuggling has always existed across the Syria-Jordan border, the scale of the Syrian drug trade has exploded in the last two years. The most acute spike occurred (and has since continued) immediately after the Jordanian king Abdullah II’s decision to speak with Assad on the phone in October 2021. Since then, dozens of people have been killed in border clashes associated with the Syrian drug trade, and although Jordan had previously been a transit point toward the prime market in the Persian Gulf, it has since become a key market itself, with Captagon use in the country now described as an “epidemic,” particularly among young people and amid a 30-percent unemployment rate.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Drugs, Jordan, Middle East, Syrian civil war