Zakaria: What the Palestinians should do
November 30th, 2012
02:48 AM ET

Zakaria: What the Palestinians should do

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?

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Beware of good intentions over Palestinian statehood
November 28th, 2012
05:48 PM ET

Beware of good intentions over Palestinian statehood

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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Changing Middle East looks depressingly like what it replaces
November 21st, 2012
12:49 PM ET

Changing Middle East looks depressingly like what it replaces

By Danielle Pletka, Special to CNN

Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are her own.

This small war between Hamas and Israel will pass. The just announced ceasefire may be sustained. Or Israel may move from aerial bombardment to a ground incursion, which will deter Hamas from relighting the fuse for some time. But not forever, because Hamas exists only to fight with Israel. It has no other purpose. Those who counter that Hamas governs need only look at Gaza to understand that governance is far from Hamas’ aims or abilities. Will this late 2012 battle end differently for the Palestinians? Advance a two state solution? Heal the ills of the Palestinians? Allow Israel to live in peace and security? No.

Another question:  Will the realignment of the Middle East to an order more congenial to Hamas matter? Clearly, Hamas believed that with its Muslim Brotherhood brethren at the helm in Egypt and the new spiritual leader of the region’s Sunni Islamists at the helm in Turkey, this adventure would end differently. Of course, Hamas’ hope was not to destroy the state of Israel. Rather, it was to gain the upper hand in its endless and fruitless battle against Fatah for the Palestinian political mantle, ideally with the wind of the Arab world’s Islamist revolutions at its back. That won’t happen either. Egypt’s Mohamed Morsy and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan are willing to lend rhetorical support and a few visits to Gaza, but they’re never going to do anything substantial for Palestinians because they neither care enough about actual Palestinian people nor wish to queer their pitch with Europe and the United States.

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The Israel-Hamas conflict’s unintended consequences
November 19th, 2012
11:01 AM ET

The Israel-Hamas conflict’s unintended consequences

By Robert Danin, CFR

Editor's note: Robert Danin is Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Middle East Matters originally appeared here. The views expressed are his own.

By Israel’s accounting, Operation Pillar of Defense has achieved many if not most of its major objectives: assassinating Hamas’ long-sought after military mastermind Ahmed Ja’abari and other top officials, destroying much of Hamas’ long-range arsenal of imported Iranian-produced Fajr-5 missiles, and eliminating other significant high-value military targets. Despite this, however, a number of unintended consequences have already emerged, ranging from the boosting of Hamas’ prominence, undermining its isolation, further weakening the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas, and diverting regional attention from Syria.

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Topics: Israel • Middle East • Palestinian Authority
Why land for peace is dead
November 15th, 2012
06:29 PM ET

Why land for peace is dead

By Michael Rubin, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. The views expressed are his own.

On September 18, 1978, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the so-called Camp David Accords, cementing the notion that land for peace would become the basis for a resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict. Their agreement led to a peace treaty the following year between Israel and Egypt. However the current fighting between Israel and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip ends, one thing is certain: the era of land-for-peace is over.

At first, Jimmy Carter’s land-for-peace formula looked promising. One in three Arabs lived in Egypt. Within the White House and at Foggy Bottom, presidents and diplomats believed that where Egypt went, so would go the Arab world. Hence, the precedent of trading the Sinai for peace became a source of hope.

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What the Israel/Gaza violence means
November 15th, 2012
05:04 PM ET

What the Israel/Gaza violence means

By International Crisis Group

The International Crisis Group’s Robert Blecher, director of ICG’s Israel/Palestine Project, discusses the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza, and what it means for the region. The views expressed are Blecher’s own, and are based on a video interview conducted today.

Why is the violence we’re seeing today so much worse than in recent years?

The violence today between Israel and Gaza is the worst that there’s been since Operation Cast Lead four years ago. Israel right now is in an election season and the government is running on a platform of security and stability. It makes them look completely impotent if they can’t stop hundreds of rockets from raining down on their citizenry. The citizenry has a real demand for safety and security.

Also, from the perspective of the Israeli government, they want to change the rules of the game. They want to reestablish deterrence with Hamas – the kind of deterrence that has not existed in a number of years now. So they want to force Hamas to do things differently.

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Why the world is growing jaded with Obama
August 7th, 2012
09:20 AM ET

Why the world is growing jaded with Obama

By Fareed Zakaria

If President Obama is looking for high approval ratings, he should travel abroad. The numbers from a recent Pew Survey are astounding: 74 percent of Italians have a positive view of Obama, as do 69 percent of French, 60 percent of Britons and 58 percent of Spanish.

These numbers have actually dipped since 2009 – when they were truly stratospheric. But there are two trends that are particularly noticeable. One is the drop in confidence in Obama in Russia and China. Many Russians and Chinese are recognizing that they have issues with the American president because there are geopolitical differences between their country and the U.S., and that whoever is president, those differences are going to persist. Obama was never going to be able to wave a magic wand and make such divides disappear.

More: Romney, Obama both right. And both wrong

Then there’s the Arab world, where there has been much deeper disappointment (although it’s worth remembering that President Obama wasn’t all that popular there in the first place, contrary to conventional wisdom). In this case, the disappointment stems from hopes in the region that Obama would push harder with Israel over the creation of a Palestinian state. In addition, almost everyone is unhappy with the use of drone attacks.

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Topics: China • Global • Israel • Middle East • Military • Palestinian Authority • Russia • United States
Why the Palestinians are turning against al-Assad
August 3rd, 2012
01:18 PM ET

Why the Palestinians are turning against al-Assad

By Jonathan Schanzer, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jonathan Schanzer is Vice President of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and author of ‘Hamas vs Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine.’ The views expressed are solely those of the writer.

Even if Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad somehow survives the current uprising aimed at toppling his regime, the beleaguered dictator will have a lingering identity problem. Indeed, a long-standing pillar of Syria’s foreign policy has been support to the Palestinian “resistance” against Israel. But in the wake of the Syrian onslaught, the country’s estimated 500,000 Palestinians are abandoning – even challenging – their long-time champion. With this dramatic shift, al-Assad is left more isolated in the Middle East than ever before.

Reports from the region continue to confirm what would have been deemed impossible just two short years ago: Palestinians are turning against the regime. Human Rights Watch notes that, “Palestinians have joined anti-government protests.” One FSA commander, meanwhile, has boasted, “Palestinians are fighting alongside us, and they are well trained.”

It doesn’t help that the regime is murdering Palestinians. On Thursday, the regime reportedly killed 20 when it shelled a refugee camp. Reports before that indicated that al-Assad’s campaign had already claimed the lives of some 300 Palestinians. It’s still unclear just how many Palestinians have responded by taking up arms to challenge the regime, but a clearer picture is emerging of who is abandoning al-Assad in his hour of need.

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Why U.S. would get sucked into war if Israel strikes Iran
August 1st, 2012
10:21 AM ET

Why U.S. would get sucked into war if Israel strikes Iran

By Malou Innocent and Ehud Eilam, Global Post

Editor’s note: The following text is from Global Post, which provides views – importantmoving or just odd – from around the world. The views expressed are solely those of the authors.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that Hezbollah – the Lebanon-based, Iranian-backed, politico-military terrorist organization – was responsible for the suicide bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists. Amid ongoing U.S. and Israeli threats to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, the bombing raises a critical concern about any potential conflict: a very capable Hezbollah, together with Iran, would likely strike back hard – and not only in the Middle East – drawing the United States into another prolonged and bloody conflict in the Muslim world that it doesn’t need. Such a scenario should make those advocating war with Iran take pause.

War-weary Lebanese don’t want their country turning into another battleground against Israel. Hezbollah would also risk alienating its predominately Shiite political constituency. But the ideological and financial ties between top leaders in Tehran and Hezbollah could trump such considerations, especially in the event of an Israeli or Israeli-U.S. attack on fellow Muslims in Iran.

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Topics: Iran • Israel • Middle East • Palestinian Authority • United States
July 23rd, 2012
03:41 PM ET

Egypt opens to Gaza

By Elliott Abrams, CFR

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are solely those of the author. This entry of Pressure Points originally appeared here.

From the moment when Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 while the West Bank remained under the control of the Fatah Party and the Palestinian Authority, the question of Gaza’s relationship to Egypt has been open.

Gaza was under Egyptian control from 1948 to 1967, under Israeli control from 1967 to 2005, and under Palestinian Authority control from 2005 to 2007. After the Hamas coup in June 2007, Egypt under Mubarak largely retained the border controls that Israel had put in place. Mubarak viewed Hamas with suspicion, as a radical group that was part of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Perhaps more surprisingly, Egypt’s new government, itself dominated by the MB, has continued those controls.

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Topics: Egypt • Israel • Palestinian Authority
April 10th, 2012
08:51 AM ET

Israeli defense minister on settlements

On Sunday, I interviewed the former Prime Minister and current Defense Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak. We spoke about Israel's settlement activities in the West Bank and the degree to which they may jeopardize future discussions with the Palestinians about the creation of  a Palestinian state.

Here's a transcript of our discussion:

Fareed Zakaria: You ordered, this week, the removal of a settler family from Hebron over the prime minister's objections because you believed you had to uphold the law.

But yet, there is a similar situation going on with settlers in the Beit El community, where a court has ordered that the settlements be evacuated and yet the government, the prime minister has told the attorney general to find some other solution. Why would you not uphold the law and a court order in that case, as well? FULL POST

April 7th, 2012
04:25 PM ET

Web Extra: Ehud Barak on settlements

Sunday at 10am and 1pm EST on CNN's GPS, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak discusses a range of issues including the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran.

In the excerpt below, Barak addresses the issue of Israel's settlement building.

Fareed Zakaria: The Palestinians are sending you a letter, though, arguing that if negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis must resume, Israel must stop building settlements - creating facts on the ground that will make it more and more difficult to create a two-state solution. Is there any prospect of that happening?

Ehud Barak: Fareed, I hope that it will happen. I think that most of the burden for the inability to move in the last three years happens to be on the Palestinians' shoulders, not on ours. FULL POST

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