Archive for the ‘Palestinian Authority’ Category

Israel and Iran

July 27, 2009

Earlier today, Israeli officials implicitly threatened to attack Iran militarily if the Islamic Republic does not abandon its nuclear weapons program.

During a news conference with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Israelie Defense Minister Ehud Barak said “We clearly believe that no option should be removed from the table.  This is our policy.  We mean it.  We recommend to others to take the same position, but we cannot dictate it to anyone.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a similar line.

According to an official press release from his office, the prime minister, during a meeting with Gates, “reiterated the seriousness which Israel views Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the need to utilize all available means to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear capability.”

The Obama administration, like all American administrations during foreign policy crises, says that all options are on the table, including military action.  But the US appears prepared to press for further economic sanctions against Iran if that nation develops the Bomb rather than a military response. 

Washington seems to have realized that striking Iran would be counterproductive in terms of promoting American interests in the region, including efforts to reach a peace accord between Israel and its Arab neighbors, especially the Palestinians. 

The Israeli government apparently takes a different view, if the statements made by Israeli officials truly reflect their opinions.  If that is the case, it would be unfortunate because Israel need not destroy Iranian nuclear sites to protect itself; Israel’s nuclear arsenal will be a sufficient deterrent against Iran launching a nuclear attack.  It is true that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made inflammatory statements regarding Israel such as saying Israel should be “wiped off the map,” but other leaders during the atomic age have made similar threats, such as Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev’s telling the US “We will bury you,” without following through on them.  Iranian leaders may be anti-Semetic, but they are not suicidal.  As much as they may hate Israel, they do not hate it enough to risk the annihilation of themselves and their people.  Hopefully, Israeli leaders will realize that deterrence still works before launching a foolhardy bombing campaign in a futile effort to put an end to Iran’s nuclear program.

Hamas and the Peace Process

May 4, 2009

Earlier today, Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, announced that his fighters would stop firing rockets at Israel for the time being.  In an interview with the New York Times, he also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying that Hamas was only seeking a state in territory captured by Israel in 1967.

“I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution, period,” he said.  “We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce.  This includes East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.”

He also suggested that the international community should ignore Hamas’ charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel through jihad.

Meshal’s comments appear to be a positive step forward in the peace process, but some of his other statements are cause for concern.  He defined “long term” as merely 10 years and refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist.  His insistence on the so-called “right of return” as a condition for a peace agreement is also problematic given that Israel will not make that concession due to concerns about demographic changes; an influx of Palestinian refugees could ultimately help make Arabs the majority ethnic group in Israel.

Hamas is a major political player in Israel-Palestine that currently rules Gaza, one of two territories primarily controlled by Palestinians; the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, is a much more moderate group that has recognized Israel and seeks a two-state solution that is supported by outside powers.  Israeli officials and other leaders are skeptical that Hamas would abide by any peace agreement between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a fact which will make the goal of ending the decades-long conflict difficult to achieve in the near term.

Netanyahu’s Precondition for Peace Negotiations

April 21, 2009

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that Palestinian authorities recognize Israel as a Jewish state before he would enter into peace talks with them.  The statement was made while US presidential envoy George Mitchell was in the region calling for both parties to negotiate a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict. 

 

Palestinians have resisted recognizing Israel as a Jewish state because many Arab Muslims live in Israel, and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to areas in Israel proper is something that Palestinians seek as a concession, although many believe that the so-called “right of return” will not be granted to them as part of any final peace agreement.  Palestinians do not want fellow Muslims to be treated as second-class citizens and residents.

 

Some Israeli leaders want their country to be recognized as a sectarian state because they believe that Judaism is a fundamental aspect of Israel’s identity.  They also face a demographic issue in that the Arab population of Israel-Palestine is growing much more rapidly than the Jewish population and in a few decades Arabs will outnumber Jews there.  The recognition of Israel as a Jewish state could provide a pretext for the Israeli government to deny citizenship to Palestinians.

 

It is understandable why Netanyahu made his demand.  However, the issue could easily be addressed during negotiations with the Palestinians and need not be resolved beforehand.  Perhaps the prime minister is making acknowledgement a pre-condition because he does not want to pursue a peace agreement at this time.  Many people in Israel and the international community believe that the militant group Hamas, which now controls Gaza, will not abide by any treaty between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and therefore feel that peace talks are pointless at this time.