Saudi Arabia Undergoing Fundamental Transformation - Dennis Ross
Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a fundamental transformation of its society. True, the monarchy retains all political power, but nationalism and modernization are replacing Wahhabism, a rigid, intolerant interpretation of Islam that fueled al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is conducting a revolution from above that is discrediting radical Islamist ideology, including the removal of several thousand clerics and dozens of judges deemed to be sympathetic to al-Qaeda.
The social changes emerging in Saudi Arabia are visible to any visitor. Go into any restaurant and see men and women mixing; visit businesses or governmental offices and women are prominent; cinemas are opening; music, forbidden in the strict Wahhabi code, is now played in concerts drawing thousands. None of this was thinkable in the past.
Having just returned from Saudi Arabia, I am struck by the enthusiasm for the crown prince, especially among young people who now can talk openly about their ability to shape their destinies and the destiny of the country. Like it or not, the policies of the Saudis will have a huge effect on what takes shape in the Middle East. America can't write them off. The writer, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served in senior national security positions during the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations. (Bloomberg) *UPDATE: On the Way to Open Normalization - Yoni Ben Menachem
Despite resolutions of the Arab Summit and the Arab League that ban open normalization with Israel, as well as Palestinian opposition, the United Arab Emirates has agreed to host Israel at the Expo 2020 exhibition in October. At the exhibition, Israel will present its achievements in the fields of water, medicine, technology, and information, highlighting the spirit of Israeli innovation.
Over the past two months, the covert normalization process between Israel and the Gulf states has begun to emerge in tandem with the process of crafting President Trump's "Deal of the Century." Open normalization is supposed to be an integral part of that deal.
Arab rulers respect power. They see how Israel has been attacking the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria with full U.S. backing and even a certain coordination with Russia. They also see Mahmoud Abbas' rejectionist policy toward any compromise with Israel, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been turning Gaza into an Iranian stronghold.
Open normalization with Israel is an important process that can help the Palestinians understand that Israel is a fact of life and that even the Arab states have come to terms with Israel's presence in the Middle East. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)*
The Impact of the Deal of the Century - Prof. Eyal Zisser
This June the U.S. will supposedly unveil details of its "deal of the century" to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many of the relevant parties have openly declared they will refuse to accept it. The Palestinians are looking on forlornly as their dream of having all their demands of Israel delivered on a silver platter by the international community rises in smoke. While it might seek to meet the Palestinians' desires, the deal of the century is light years from the concessions that previous administrations, from Clinton to Obama, were willing to grant.
Arab countries will follow in the wake of the Palestinian rejection. Arab rulers would be happy to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end, but from there to a willingness to lie on the fence for Israel and Trump, the distance is great. But it would be a mistake to think the deal of the century will be completely inconsequential.
First, the details of the plan will become the starting point for any future discussions about the conflict, instead of or in conjunction with the Clinton outline or former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's offer to Abbas. The plan will also be evoked and used to significantly improve Israel's bargaining position opposite future American administrations and the international community.
Second, the proposal could essentially remove several central issues from the agenda, chief among them the issue of Palestinian refugees. The American plan calls for refusing these refugees the right of return and settling them in their current countries.Finally, the plan could give the Israeli government an opportunity to apply Israeli law over the large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria that are supported by a wall-to-wall consensus in Israel. The writer is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)The West Bank: Israel's Eastern Line of Defense - Maj.-Gen. Gershon Hacohen
This study explores the strategic-military implications of the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-June 1967 lines. Its central thesis is that the creation of such a state, on the heels of the IDF's total withdrawal from the West Bank, will not only deprive Israel of defensible borders but will almost certainly lead to the advent of a terrorist entity like the one created in Gaza.
Since 1996, 90% of the Palestinians in the territories have not lived under Israeli occupation but rather under the Palestinian Authority's rule (in Gaza, since 2007, under Hamas rule). In other words, the current dispute between Israel and the Palestinians is not about ending the "occupation."
The demilitarization of a future Palestinian state is a pipedream, as evidenced by the resounding failure to demilitarize Gaza despite the PLO's commitment to this step in a number of signed agreements. The writer served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battle on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
U.S. Publishes Map Showing Golan as Part of IsraelThe U.S. has published a map showing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, three weeks after President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau. U.S. Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted a picture of the map. (Times of Israel)
Cultural Barriers to Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Lawrence J. Haas
|Definition: 1. Stubbornly resistant to or defiant of guidance. 2. Difficult to manage or deal with. Synonym: obstinate. |
Cultural obstacles prevent progress toward peace. When activists in Gaza protested rising prices, high unemployment, and new taxes imposed by Hamas in March, Hamas cracked down harshly. The Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank in similar dictatorial fashion, brooking no opposition. Palestinian leaders will need to respect the rights of their own people before we can hope that, at some point, they'll respect the rights of Israelis to live in peace.
As Hamas and Fatah fight one another, the weapon at their disposal to assure their popularity among Palestinians is their continuing efforts to kill Jews. Palestinian factions that compete over who's more committed to killing Israelis won't be making peace with Israel any time soon.
The Palestinian Authority continues to pay prisoners and the families of "martyrs" who tried to kill Israelis. A Palestinian leadership that turns killers into martyrs won't be making peace with the country of those they want to kill. The writer is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. (The Hill)
Is US foreign policy for sale? If so, who is buying? And what are the consequences?
This intriguing 20 minute documentary is well worth the time.