By Einat Wilf, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Einat Wilf is a former member of the Israeli Knesset and sat on its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from his meeting Monday with President Barack Obama, he may have recognized in the president a fellow proponent of the Netanyahu Doctrine: to avoid the use of force, be ready to use it. After all, Obama had just reiterated that he won't take any options off the table on Iran, “including military.”
Of course, the Netanyahu Doctrine is nothing new – the ancient Romans described it as si vis pacem para bellum, “he who wants peace must prepare for war.” Hebrew wisdom extolled self-restraint as the highest form of heroism, and such ancient wisdom has also guided Netanyahu's policies, and not only on Iran. But while this doctrine did not originate with Netanyahu, the prime minister has become closely associated with its application in the region, despite facing significant criticism.
The doctrine is simple to formulate, yet nearly impossible to successfully implement because to be a success, three components must be in place: the capability to use force, projection of a true willingness to use it, and a deep desire to avoid doing so. No one, including the leader, knows what will actually happen at the critical moment of decision regarding the use of force, but the other side should be sufficiently concerned and unsure to consider the threat credible. When done right, the doctrine is a masterful tightrope walk over the twin abyss of Vietnam and Munich: Prepare for war too much and you risk instigating the very war you wish to avoid; prepare too little and you risk encouraging aggression through weakness and appeasement.
By Fareed Zakaria
“Israel’s Palestinian citizens don’t want to leave. Over the decades they have developed an identity distinct from their West Bank and Gazan cousins. They appreciate living in a prosperous, democratic country. But—and this is what keeps Netanyahu up at night—they don’t want that country to be a Jewish state,” writes Peter Beinart in the Daily Beast.
“They don’t feel warm and fuzzy about a flag with a Jewish star and a national anthem that talks about the ‘Jewish soul.’ They believe, as a high-profile Israeli government commission acknowledged in 2003, that Israel’s treatment of them ‘has been primarily neglectful and discriminatory.’ Their kids can’t aspire to be prime minister. In ways both deeply symbolic and highly practical, they feel like second-class citizens as non-Jews in a Jewish state.”
“Omission and misdirection is hardly uncommon in domestic Chinese reporting, but the digital age has significantly complicated the process of suppressing information,” writes Jiayang Fan for the New Yorker. “A week ago, the Chinese-language edition of the Wall Street Journal briefly joined the Times and Bloomberg on the wrong side of China’s Great Firewall. Not for the first time, the Journal’s Chinese Web site was blocked without warning or evident provocation, while the English edition was uninterrupted.”
“The tactic is telling of the censors’ strategy: it doesn’t much matter if the barrier is linguistic or digital, as long as the vast majority of readers in China remain unable to surmount the divide. The sleight of hand would remain largely indiscernible if it were not for the emergence of Weibo and a rising class of educated Chinese who, by virtue of being bilingual, are able to monitor the censors.”
By Robert M. Danin, Special to CNN
Editor's Note: Robert M. Danin is Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the former director for the Levant and Israeli-Palestinian Affairs at the National Security Council. He writes the blog Middle East Matters at CFR.org. The views expressed are his own.
Writing in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, Nadav Eyal characterized his country’s view of this week’s peace talks with the Palestinians as that of “cautious pessimism.” Palestinian public opinion is even gloomier. Mutual cynicism about the prospects for peace is not surprising, given that the two sides have been unsuccessfully negotiating an end to their conflict intermittently for over two decades. Having seen their hopes and aspirations dashed so many times before, why should this time be any different?
The initial indicators are not overly encouraging: That U.S. Secretary of State Kerry had to invest so much time and effort just to get Israelis and Palestinians to agree to meet suggests that he may want the talks more than them. Ultimately, it was Kerry’s sheer tenacity that made the price of saying no for the parties higher than acceding to the United States chief diplomat. But so far, what the parties have mainly agreed to is a process, not to a deal.
By Fareed Zakaria
If you were to ask me what international problem is least likely to be resolved in the next few years, I would probably say the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It takes no special insight to be skeptical on this; no one has ever lost money betting against the Middle East peace process. And yet I find myself cheering on Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to revive talks between the two sides.
The case for realism is obvious. The Palestinians are dysfunctional and divided, with Hamas controlling Gaza and still unwilling to make any kind of deal with Israel. For its part, the Israeli public has largely given up on peace, and new political groups–like those led by Naftali Bennett–flatly oppose a two-state solution.
But the situation on the ground is not quite as stuck as it at first seems.
By Ibrahim Sharqieh, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ibrahim Sharqieh is deputy director of the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center, and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University in Qatar. You can follow him @sharqieh. The views expressed are his own.
On May 15, the Palestinians will commemorate 65 years of their “Nakba” – “the Catastrophe.” This is how they describe 1948, which saw the destruction of Palestinian society, 750,000 Palestinians forced from their homes, and over 450 Palestinian towns wiped off the map. Today, there are over 5 million Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations’ UNRWA. But while 1948 was a terrible trauma for the collective Palestinian memory, the reality is that it was only the beginning of a long journey of displacement, dispossession, and exile. The real Nakba is ongoing, and the Palestinian people live it on a daily basis both inside and outside the Palestinian territories. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry throws himself into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, we have to ask: Will his efforts bring this human tragedy a step closer to the end? Or only make it worse?
On a recent trip to Lebanon, I made sure to visit the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. While under control of the Israeli army that occupied Beirut in 1982, approximately 800 to 3,500 Palestinian refugees were massacred at the hands of Christian militias. In the camps today, the bitter reality of the Palestinian refugees’ life in exile is on full display: an enormous mass grave in the camps’ center holds the victims of 1982 massacre. It is a daily reminder to the refugees of their continuing human tragedy.
By Ibrahim Sharqieh, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ibrahim Sharqieh is deputy director of the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center, and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University in Qatar. The views expressed are his own.
Almost twenty years of negotiations “brought us nothing but more Israeli settlement. Palestinians have had enough of negotiations,” one senior Palestinian official said at a conference I attended recently. And yet, ahead of his first visit to the Middle East as secretary of state this month, John Kerry appeared to be suggesting more of the same.
“My prayer is that perhaps this can be a moment where we can renew some kind of effort to get the parties into a discussion,” he reportedly said. Such platitudes bode poorly for President Obama’s planned visit to the region this week. Indeed, it seems as if it will be business as usual on Palestinian-Israeli policy during the president’s second term, with yet more fruitless talks and an ever-increasing disconnect between U.S. diplomacy and developments on the ground.
By Jane Harman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jane Harman is director, president and chief executive officer of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was a nine-term congresswoman from California and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee from 2002 to 2006. The views expressed are her own.
Israel’s surprising election result gives its wing-clipped prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, an opportunity to shift to the center. This option was available to him four years ago when he outmaneuvered Tzipi Livni to form a majority in the Knesset. But he chose instead to move to the right.
Now comes a reset moment. Israel’s economy is fragile, with housing prices soaring and the middle class squeezed. A majority of the mostly secular Jewish population also resents special deals cut with the ultra-Orthodox to shield them from compulsory service in the military and to provide them with benefits not available to others.
By Ibrahim Sharqieh, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ibrahim Sharqieh is deputy director of the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
We are now set for a third term for Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu. And, although Netanyahu’s Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition seems to have underperformed expectations, a plurality of the vote will allow him to once again lead Israel’s government.
But even a somewhat moderated Netanyahu government will continue to advance radical positions that put regional and global security in danger. The question, then, is how the United States can best push another right-wing administration to behave in accordance with the principles of the international security system – and its own national interests.
Over the past two Netanyahu terms, the international community, and the United States in particular, adopted an approach based on accommodation when dealing with the Netanyahu government. The hope was that this approach would contain the risks this extremist government posed to international security. Yet just as that strategy did not work then, it will not work now. The United States must therefore now take a harder line with Israel’s coming government – it must switch from a strategy of accommodation to one of confrontation, and it should start by letting fall its diplomatic shield.
By Jonathan Schanzer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism analyst at the U.S. Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets at @JSchanzer. The views expressed are his own.
Has the Palestinian-Israeli conflict finally entered the post-Oslo Accords era? In the Middle East, nothing is dead until it’s buried, but several troubling signs are pointing in that direction.
The game-changer was Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ historic mission upgrade at the United Nations General Assembly on November 29 of last year. The upgrade merely afforded the PLO, which sets foreign policy for the Palestinians, status akin to the Vatican as a non-member observer. Since then, however, the PLO has enacted several changes that may make the 1994 Oslo impossible to resuscitate.
By Robert Templer, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Robert Templer is a former International Crisis Group Asia Program director and author of a forthcoming book, 'The History of Poison.' The views expressed are his own.
Yasser Arafat’s body has been exhumed to investigate if he was poisoned. A Turkish newspaper has alleged that that a former president, Turgut Ozal, was given doses of DDT and radioactive polonium-210 to hasten his death. In the African country of Benin, a former trade minister has been arrested on charges of trying to mix a toxin into the president’s medicine. In China, a contender for the Communist Party leadership was brought down after his wife allegedly poisoned a British businessman.
It would seem we are entering a new age of the poisoner, a menace with echoes of Renaissance Italy or Victorian Britain. Has the powder or potion become the assassin’s weapon of choice, as it was said to be in ancient Rome? Probably not, but poisonings still evoke fears beyond other means of murder. The secrecy, the malice aforethought and the thought of a slow, agonizing death still rattle us all. But although accusations of poisoning are fairly common, proof is rare.
By Fareed Zakaria
The Palestinian Authority has won its campaign to be recognized as a non-member state of the United Nations. The question now is whether this will change anything.
Probably no. It will give the Palestinians a little more recognition and greater legal status in certain international fora. But the vote doesn’t change the reality that the only way the Palestinians are going to get a state is if Israel decides that it is in its interests to make it happen. Israel has the power on the ground, The country’s leaders have made it clear that they are not going to be pressured by the UN, defeated in battle, they are not going to be intimidated, they are not going to be terrorized – I think the history of the last three decades has made all of this very clear.
So the question the Palestinians should be asking themselves is, how do we get the Israelis to see this as in their interests?
By Einat Wilf, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Einat Wilf is a member of the Israeli Knesset and its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The views expressed are the author’s own.
When well-meaning people send destructive messages, even if unintentionally, it is worse than when those of ill will do. When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas formally requests the U.N. General Assembly to pass tomorrow a resolution recognizing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in east Jerusalem, he will be counting on the support of more than one hundred member states. Most of those will be continuing their well-established tradition of voting against Israel, towards which their ill will is known, well documented and expected.
But some countries will be voting Yay, or sympathetically abstaining, in the hope that recognizing a state of Palestine would keep the two-state solution alive as the path to peace. Yet doing half the job is worse than doing nothing at all. In their vote, those countries of goodwill, will be sending a dangerous message that would undermine, rather than increase, the chances for peace by privileging one aspect of the conflict while ignoring others.
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