Getting Reuven Rivlin, and the Israeli Right, Wrong

Six months ago, when Reuven Rivlin was being considered for the position of president of Israel, the press eagerly painted him as a right-wing fanatic at whose hands the Jewish state would “be thrust into a dark era of international isolation.” A leading Israeli newspaper referred to him as “the Philosopher Clown.” As president, however, Rivlin has shocked his critics by, among other things, speaking out for reconciliation between Jews and Arabs. Their befuddlement, writes Liel Leibovitz, comes not from some sudden change in Rivlin but from their habit of thinking in stereotypes and their cluelessness about the foundational ideology of the Israeli right:

It is dispiriting to see so many pundits opine without regard for Rivlin’s legislative record and ideological roots—his is a firm commitment to Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s teachings, which stressed in equal measure a dedication to the land of Israel and to the values of liberal democracy. But it is infuriating to know that beneath this thin veneer of ignorance lies a deeper Manichean mindset, one in which a passionate Zionist can no more be a tireless defender of civil liberties than a bull can work the showroom of his neighborhood china shop.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Israeli politics, Likud, Reuven Rivlin, Vladimir Jabotinsky


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy