The White House Is Wrong to Wade into Israel’s Domestic Political Turmoil

In recent weeks, Joe Biden has made known more than once his concerns about the Israeli government’s efforts to reform the judicial system. Robert Satloff argues that the president has made a grave error by getting involved in this Israeli political controversy:

The rationale most frequently provided by the White House for the president’s interest is fear that Israel’s democracy will be weakened by speedy parliamentary approval of a law on a vital issue without any support from the opposition, thereby loosening the common bonds between our two great democracies.

But this explanation doesn’t really hold water. It has certainly not been an issue in the past. For example, I don’t recall President Clinton warning Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin 30 years ago not to press forward with the Oslo Accords, . . . which were only approved (via a no-confidence motion) with 61 votes in the 120-member Knesset—a much narrower margin than the judicial-reform vote. And here at home, passing important legislation without opposition consensus is not much of an issue either.

To be sure, there is an important national-security rationale for U.S. interest in Israel’s judicial legislation: that Israel’s adversaries not misread dissent for division and miscalculate into conflict. . . . But, in this case, the proper response is not for Washington to warn Israel’s government that a parliamentary vote risks the foundational “shared values” of the U.S.-Israel relationship, inadvertently fueling its enemies’ warped rationale for adventurism. Rather, the right approach is to affirm the strength and constancy of American support for Israel, regardless of how it sorts out its constitutional housekeeping.

Read more at The Hill

More about: Israeli Judicial Reform, Israeli politics, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship


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