The Six-Day War's Legacy in Sinai

The Six-Day War's 50th anniversary will generate an overabundance of commentary about the war's legacy on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Most scholarship will focus on the continued challenges of Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem, however there are valuable lessons that Read more

Trump in Israel: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  President Donald Trump was in Israel for all of twenty-eight hours, and yet even within that short window of time he managed to till a significant amount of discursive soil. Dozens of analysts and commentators will offer their thoughts Read more

Erdogan, Jerusalem, and the End of the Honeymoon

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statements at the International Forum on al-Quds Waqf (held in Istanbul) received international media coverage when he attacked Israeli policy in Jerusalem, compared the situation in the West Bank with Apartheid South Africa, and called for Read more

The Curious Case of Michael Flynn, Turkey, and Israeli gas

President Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn has been at the epicenter of an ongoing story for the last few weeks. While I don't want to rehash what has already been reported, I did find one particular nugget Read more

Implications of the IDF’s Minority Strategy

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel |  

While I generally believe that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) support the integration and acculturation of Israel’s minorities into mainstream society via the military experience, news that the IDF has opened an exclusive new software testing course only for Ethiopian soldiers is yet another sign of increasing segregation within Israel’s military. As someone who suffered equally alongside immigrants from all over the world during my army service I am deeply disturbed by the implications of this decision. Read more

The French Twist

Posted on by Gabriel in Iran, Israel |  

Israel is abuzz with news of France’s unexpected obstruction of a potential agreement between the P5+1 and Iran regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. It is difficult to remember a time when the French were praised by the Israeli press, decades perhaps. The maneuver couldn’t have come at a better time either – it was a welcome distraction to the public feud between the Obama Administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a range of issues, but none more important then the threat of a nuclear Iran. Now (at least publicly) there is another voice of caution against a hasty deal. Read more

Ataturk, Ben-Gurion, and Turkey’s Road Not Taken

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel, Turkey |  

Although they appear very far apart today, Israel and Turkey share common historical DNA. The two countries were forged in the same fire of post-World War I secularism, anti-imperialism, and ethnic nationalism; and they have both been tested by significant domestic and regional challenges. In particular, their founders, David Ben-Gurion and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, both developed nation-specific models for statehood after the chaotic collapse of the Ottoman Empire. They did so by drawing from European models, while each observed the successes and failures of the other. Both emphasized a cultural and historical relationship to the land and adopted strict secular values. Their goals were the same, even if the end product was not: To construct nation-states that would “be masters of their own fate,” as Israel’s Declaration of Independence put it. As a result, the early years of these two Middle Eastern states—both of which were non-Arab, secular, and Western-oriented—were highlighted by an intense strategic partnership.

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Curing the hiccups in Israeli-Turkish negotiations

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel, Turkey |  

From tales of Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan revealing the names of 10 Mossad assets to Iranian authorities, to El Al being locked out of the Turkish market, it is hard to find a silver lining amid the darkening clouds of Israeli-Turkish relations. Read more

Netanyahu’s Newest Challenge: The Calm of Hassan Rouhani

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel | 1 comment
UN Photo/Sarah Fretwell

UN Photo/Sarah Fretwell

 

For those who didn’t watch the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly last night, I highly recommend checking out (at the very least) the transcripts of President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speeches, the latter of which I want to address from the Israeli perspective. Read more

Two States or Bust!

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel |  

Twenty years later, the two-state solution must be reviewed, not abandoned

 

Reminders of why a two-state solution is the only workable answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict aren’t difficult to find, and events this weekend provided yet another stark example. Israeli Air Force sergeant Tomer Hazan, lured into a cab by a Palestinian co-worker, was kidnapped and murdered in an open field. Confessing to Israeli officials, the perpetrator Nidal Amar hoped to use Hazan’s corpse as leverage to free his brother, who has been serving a prison sentence in Israel since 2003 for his role in planning a number of terrorist attacks.

Although the Shin Bet has yet to release all the information related to the tragedy – including Hazan’s motivation to enter the cab – it is another gruesome episode on the eve of renewed peace talks between the two parties.

For Israelis, this incident only serves to reinforce a common conviction in the two-state solution, the security fence (or separation wall, barrier, etc.), and a growing desire to reduce future interactions between the two populations. However, advocates to disband the two-state solution persist, and although there have been a number of rebuttals to Professor Ian Lustick’s recent New York Times column, “Two State Illusion,” I felt it appropriate after Sergeant Hazan’s passing to contribute a few thoughts. Read more

The Yom Kippur War: Israel’s Finest Victory?

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel | 1 comment

The common trope in Israel is that the Yom Kippur War, fought between October 6th and 25th 1973, was a Pyrrhic victory.  Caught off-guard by Syrian and Egyptian forces on the pinnacle of the Jewish calendar, the IDF was forced to regain territory it had captured in 1967, and paid a dear price in the process.  By the end of the war 2,569 Israelis lost their lives in the sands of the Sinai and on the rocky Golan Heights.  The euphoria sparked by the miraculous Six-Day War was suffocated in the eerie silence of national catastrophe.

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The Secret History of a Problem

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel, Turkey |  

The Israeli-Turkish relationship has experienced ups and downs since 1949, when Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize the State of Israel. And because both countries are partners with the United States in a sensitive region, American policy has an invested stake in that relationship as well—one which occasionally demands active engagement during low ebb periods to prevent the two sides from terminating the relationship altogether.

It is a tricky business, in that the interests of the three countries are asymmetrical. For Israel, good relations with Turkey constituted a keystone to David Ben-Gurion’s “peripheral strategy” of surrounding the Arab states (who surrounded Israel) with friends of the Jewish state, including Iran and Ethiopia. For Turkey, ties to Israel were at first less important strategically but burnished its inclusion in the Western security system without jeopardizing its ties with pro-Western Arab countries. For the United States, Turkey’s membership in NATO turned it into an important partner as long as the Cold War posited the USSR as the key adversary, but the special relationship with Israel came to have a Cold War-bound strategic significance of its own on the edge of NATO’s ambit. Just as, with the Israeli approach, the enemy of thy enemy is thy friend, American leadership preferred working with a pair of friendly allies to working with a pair of antagonistic ones (of the Greek-Turkish variety, for example).

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An army of all the people, for all the people

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel |  

A tank crew on the border of Lebanon (Summer 2007)

“Are you some kind of idiot? What are you doing! GET DOWN RIGHT NOW!” Dor screamed above the roar of the tank. “Driver, stop!”

It was late June and the heat that rested upon the dunes near Shizafon had reached its oppressive apex. Most of my fellow IDF (Israel Defense Forces) trainees were using their precious spare time drinking stale water and finding shade in a row of eastward-facing hangars. Activity was limited to the tanks themselves; despite the conditions, there was no way that our training exercises would be cancelled.

I scrambled down from the turret, back into the safer confines of the tank’s steel walls. But the 80-ton behemoth served no refuge from Dor’s volleys. “You must be some unique kind of moron. Do you understand anything I am saying to you?” Read more

Talking Turkey – Why Israel won’t recognize the Kurds

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel, Turkey |  

Henry Kissinger famously said that in the world of diplomacy, “We must learn to distinguish morality from moralizing.”  This is what Dr. David Altman fails to appreciate in his article“Forget Turkey; Israel must take up the Kurdish cause,” during which he outlines why “human morality” should take precedence when determining Israel’s regional foreign policy.  Though I sympathize with Altman’s dissatisfaction with Kissingerian realpolitik, I reject his misguided solution to the current freeze in Israeli-Turkish relations. Read more