Washington Is Encouraging Normalization with Syria

When Bashar al-Assad launched a war on his own people that left half a million dead, drove millions from their homes, and left his country ruins, he became a pariah in the Arab world and many governments severed their diplomatic ties with Syria. More recently, however, Arab leaders have been welcoming him back into the fold. David Adesnik explains that they have done so with tacit U.S. approval:

The administration has not offered any clear rationale for supporting engagement. The primary cause seems to be fatigue. With unstinting support from Russia and Iran, Assad has demonstrated his staying power. The administration does not appear to want to invest the diplomatic capital necessary to keep him isolated.

On moral grounds, the case for isolating Assad is unassailable. But it is also in the United States’ narrow self-interest. Increasingly, the Syrian regime resembles a narco-trafficking cartel, flooding the region with an amphetamine-like drug known as Captagon. Damascus also remains an integral part of the Iranian network that transfers advanced weapons and hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas and Hizballah—the U.S.-designated terrorist organizations that brought the region to the brink of war earlier this month with rocket attacks on Israel.

Assad’s rehabilitation has only come this far because the administration gave his neighbors the green light. A reversal could stop the process in its tracks.

Read more at FDD

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Hamas, Hizballah, Middle East, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem