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

Guest Post: Rationalizing Rouhani by Rob Pinfold*

Posted on by Gabriel in Iran |  

Once again, for those of us cursed with a compulsive thirst for Middle-Eastern news, Iran is the talk of the town.

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s recent speech at the United Nations General Assembly has reignited the debate regarding the appropriate strategic framework for dissuading Iran’s regime from pursuing uranium enrichment.

The ‘hawks’, desperate to maintain an uncompromising position vis-à-vis ‘The Iranian Threat’ immediately dismissed Rouhani’s speech as gesture politics, intended to sugar-coat the relentless march of a doom-mongering, fanatical regime towards a nuclear conflagration.

By contrast, the ‘doves’ seized upon Rouhani’s conciliatory dialogue to suggest that an ideological paradigm shift has finally taken place within the Iranian regime, empowering so-called ‘moderates’. The dovish engagement strategy has been stunted for many years, faced with the reality of bumbling incoherencies, racist fulminations and oft-stated desire by Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to ‘wipe Israel from the map’.

Quite simply, where there was Ahmadinejad, there is now Rouhani; finally, there is someone to talk to who appears sane and not bent on annihilating regional neighbors. 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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Don’t count on Turkey

Posted on by Gabriel in Turkey |  

Israel welcomes the Erdogan road show

Posted on by Gabriel in Turkey |  

Renewed unrest in Egypt makes Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s promised (and oft postponed) visit to Gaza an unlikely reality. Regardless of when he makes the journey, however, most Israelis will casually observe the festivities with the tired dismissal that comes from the overexposure of such populist grandstanding. Contrary to popular thinking, however, Erdoğan’s long-anticipated road show in Gaza will actually serve Israel’s interests.

Prior to reconciliation talks, the Turkish government made three demands of Israel: an official apology for the Mavi Marmara incident, financial compensation to the families of the victims, and Israel’s lifting of its blockade of the Gaza Strip. With an apology already in the bag and compensation talks entering their fifth consecutive month, Erdoğan’s trip would render the Gaza blockade a non-factor in further negotiations.

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What you need to know about the #OccupyGezi phenomenon in Turkey

Posted on by Gabriel in Turkey |  

Erdogan

Early and often, experts drew parallels between the recent events in Taksim and those in Tahrir Square, but for Israelis, the past days remind many of the social protest movement that swept our own country in the summer of 2011, where “social justice” was demanded from the Netanyahu government. This brief analysis presents the events in Turkey within the necessary historical, social, and political context. Read more

How Will OccupyGezi Impact Turkey?

Posted on by Gabriel in Turkey |  
Turkish Protests

Turkish protestors rallied even into the later hours of the nigh

In 2011, when the Arab Spring went into full bloom and protests against regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon began, some claimed the source of inspiration for this wave of political Islam was the so-called “Turkish Model.”

Since 2002 the conservative AKP (Justice and Development Party) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had achieved successive parliamentary majorities, enjoyed u
nprecedented economic growth, and balanced relationships with European and Middle Eastern states while simultaneously advocating for a greater acceptance of Islam in the public and political realm. There was much to admire with how gracefully a country scarred by military coups and deep political divisions was able to transition from Kemalism to seemingly something different.

Yet this weekend’s events in Taksim Square, the cultural heart of Istanbul, suggest a different narrative. Perhaps Turkey did not serve as a model for the Arab Spring. Perhaps the rise of the AKP in 2002 was not the watershed moment that marked the beginnings of a Post-Kemalist era. The only lesson we can seemingly come away with is, like Tahrir Square, most people didn’t see this coming. Read more

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