A Missed Opportunity at the Munich Conference

This past weekend, over 130 ministers and heads of state gathered for the annual Munich Security Conference, created in 1963 as a response to the Berlin Wall crisis two years earlier. The conference is meant, as Arthur Herman writes, “to be an important venue for European leaders to discuss collective security concerns in an informal setting.” Herman argues that this year’s meeting failed to meet the needs of the moment.

The organizers of this cold-war relic could have given it an urgent new relevance in light of what’s unfolding in Ukraine—certainly the gravest security challenge to Europe in the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

They didn’t. Like an unrelated but more notorious conference held in Munich in 1938, this last meeting showed instead how feeble European democracies can be in facing aggression even when it threatens one of their own, in this case the largest country in Europe. Hours after the conference closed, Vladimir Putin showed what he thought of that vaunted body by announcing his plans to move troops into eastern Ukraine.

Herman goes on to acknowledge some positive moments of the conference, such as a speech by the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, and puts forth a series of suggestions regarding what the conferees might have accomplished.

Read more at National Review

More about: Cold War, Europe, Vladimir Putin, War in Ukraine

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