Trump’s Golan Declaration: Foolish And Dangerous

You wouldn’t expect Twitter to be the outlet for sound policy announcements, and Donald Trump doesn’t disappoint. He uses the social media platform as his

Crossing at border between Occupied and Syrian Golan

alternative to facing the media in press conferences, avoiding questions about his impulsive and often ill-considered decisions.

The latest example occurred on Thursday, when Trump took to Twitter to announce that he intended to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the western part of the Golan Heights, territory captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 war. It is unclear from Trump’s words whether he was actually recognizing Israel’s sovereignty or simply broadcasting his intent to do so.

In either case, his decision is foolhardy. It is unnecessary for either security or geo-strategic reasons. Trump is turning a fundamental principle of international law on its head just to help reelect his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Read more at LobeLog

Appearance on i24 in Israel, “Israel’s Northern Front Is Heating Up Again”

This short clip of me on Israel’s i24 channel, a show called “Strictly Security,” where I explain why recent attempts to get the US to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights are doomed to failure…but this is Trump, and if it should become an issue he embraces, that could change.

Trump Must Not Recognize Israeli Annexation of Golan Heights

There was a lot to digest in the joint press conference held by US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week. Most of the focus has been on the apparent walk-back Trump made from the long-term and bipartisan US policy supporting a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and Netanyahu’s shocking apologia for Trump’s refusal to address the sharp rise in antisemitism since his election.

Another point of real significance has therefore been squeezed out of the spotlight: Netanyahu’s proposal that the US recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Read more at LobeLog

Assad Undermines Palestinian Cause For His Own Petty Gains

According to reports on Syrian television, 23 people were killed along the border with Israel as they tried to go across the border with Israel.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) disputed the numberand the circumstances.

Syrian President Bashar Assad

Considering the sources of both the accusation and the denial, both highly dubious with long track records of dissembling, I’m keeping my mind open on this. But there are some very important points to be made about the violent confrontations on the northern border.

Let’s start with this: Uri Avnery was right when he said the IDF used disproportionate force. The IDF itself said all the injuries were on the Syrian side of the border—this is why they say they cannot confirm any casualties. The IDF also says they shot live fire at the legs of protesters heading toward the border fence, but still on the Syrian side. Hard to see how that can be called proportionate force. And at least one witness, a journalist, said that the Israelis are understating the severity of their response.

Let’s also be clear about another point: Israel is not defending its borders here. The Golan Heights, which is the area Israel is defending in these incidents, is occupied territory, internationally recognized as Syrian. Unlike the West Bank, which is claimed by the Palestinians but was not previously part of any sovereign state (it was occupied by Jordan from 1949-1967 and part of Mandatory Palestine before that), the Golan is Syrian, and Israel’s annexation of it in 1981 is illegal and recognized by no other country, including the United States.

So, Israel is not defending its borders here, but is defending its occupation. And herein lies the problem, because what is happening on the Syrian border, though certainly heartfelt and significant, is counter-productive for the Palestinians. Continue reading

Tipping the First Domino: An Israeli-Syrian Agreement

The Israeli daily, Yediot Ahoronot reported recently that the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, had reassessed its view on Syria’s sincerity in seeking talks with Israel. Mossad now agrees with all the other branches of Israeli intelligence that the Syrian overtures are sincere and that Israel should put Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s willingness to the test.

The potential benefits of an agreement between Syria and Israel are enormous for many parties. The United States is one of those parties, although one of the few players who stand to lose from such an agreement are the neoconservatives and hawks in the Bush administration. There are also real obstacles to an agreement, especially in the arenas of domestic politics in Israel and the US. But the chief factor blocking Israel-Syria talks at this time is the Bush Administration’s refusal to allow them. This is not something often talked about, which is not surprising–one can only picture the response of the overwhelming majority of Jews to the news that the US is blocking Israel-Arab peace talks that Israel desires.

Yet for all the difficulties, a deal with Syria is a lot easier to attain for Israel than one with the Palestinians, and it might have just as many, maybe even a few more, benefits for Israel as well as the region as a whole.

The Ground On Which To Build An Israel-Syria Agreement

To understand the potential benefits, we must first understand where we are now. The Middle East as a whole is engulfed in burning conflicts, simmering conflicts and growing potential for conflict. The ongoing bloodshed in Iraq and Sudan, the deepening tensions in Lebanon and growing concerns over increasingly tense situations in Bahrain, other Gulf states, Egypt and even to some extent, Saudi Arabia make this always explosive region all the more so. The fuse that is sitting too close to the flame is Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Though not always reported, there are multiple, daily incidents of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank as well as ongoing clashes between Fatah and Hamas as well as other Palestinian factions from time to time. Israel’s deepening of the infrastructure of the occupation makes matters worse. The wall continues to be built, Palestinian land continues to be appropriated and Israel continues to discuss its plans to hold onto various chunks of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. Promised relief from checkpoints and settlement “outposts” has not materialized, echoing for Palestinians the Oslo years when Israeli promises of peace were accompanied by a massive acceleration in settlement expansion. Continue reading