Saudi Arabia’s Rulers Have Cautiously Opened the Door to Liberalization. They Should Keep Pushing

Over the past two years, the Saudi government has curbed the power of the clerical police and eased some religious restrictions, most notably by extending to women the right to drive cars. Ensaf Haidar—whose husband Raif has been imprisoned and publicly lashed for propagating liberal ideas on his blog—hopes that such reforms will be followed by a more liberal attitude toward dissent:

Manal al-Sharif and Loujain al-Hathloul, two renowned activists, became the public face of a campaign [to legalize driving for women]. Sharif spent nine days in detention for posting a video of herself driving; Hathloul spent 73 days in prison after attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates in 2014. . . .

[D]emanding greater social and political rights has often exacted a severe cost on Saudi activists and intellectuals. I know this from experience. My husband, Raif Badawi, a blogger and activist, was a harsh critic of Saudi Arabia’s clerical establishment. . . .

On June 17, 2012, Raif was detained on charges that included apostasy, cybercrime, and disobeying his father. . . . In May 2014, Raif was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, and fined a million Saudi Arabian riyal for creating an online forum for public debate and “insulting” Islam. On January 9, 2015, Raif was struck with 50 lashes in a public square in Jeddah, but the lashing was stopped on medical advice. He remains in prison. Only a pardon from King Salman can get him released.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, [the force behind recent reforms], has the opportunity to rewrite Saudi history and bring freedom and openness to our country. He could start a process of national reconciliation by reconsidering the cases and imprisonment of prisoners of conscience like my husband. By securing their freedom, Prince Mohammed would give us hope and make our country a place exiles would prefer to return to and participate in building our collective future.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Arab democracy, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror