Arafat’s Legacy

(Huffington Post) – The Parliamentary vote to strike ISIS in the aftermath of the Paris attacks demonstrates that the globalised world of the 21st century does not afford us the luxury to relive an isolationist past. The US was shielded by two oceans and the UK was a distant island with foreign intervention being an arbitrary matter of moral conscience. Today’s increasingly networked reality and the erosion of borders in the Middle East causes global politics to be local and the security threats have increased at an exponential rate. Yet the question has been frequently asked about intervening in Syria was, ‘what has it got to do with us?’ Syria has led to one of the greatest refugee crisis of our time with terrorists able to conduct attacks within our shores. We have reached a stage in history where our security and strategic interests are aligned with humanitarian concerns. It is impossible and immoral to enjoy liberal democracy while abroad people are slaughtered by repressive regimes like the Assad regime or by sub-state terrorist groups like ISIS as it will come to haunt us as it did in Paris.

Targeting ISIS: A Security and Humanitarian Imperative

Fears of potential reprisals against Western targets if the US or Britain intervened in the Syrian crisis ignored the risk of terrorism due to the failure to intervene. Any environment hosting a vacuum of governance coupled with a totalitarian ideology that reinforces extreme poverty, serves to be a springboard for international terrorism, enabling the proliferation of conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Radicals are attracted to that environment not only from impoverished and lawless areas, but from developed states. In areas like Libya, Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria they are indoctrinated with radical philosophies and receive the know-how to conduct terrorist activities when they return home to their Western states. Even if Islamists don’t travel abroad they are radicalized by the internet and social media posing a security risk. In Britain the number of attempted terror plots and suspects on the watch list has soared to the thousands since the advent of ISIS. Despite the security risks of Syrian refugees being low, it is impossible to effectively screen them.

Read Full Article: Huff Post

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Beyond the bid The PA’s move towards statehood

(Janes Intelligence Review) – Although the Palestinian Authority’s application for full statehood to the UN General Assembly was celebrated vociferously in Gaza and the West Bank, little is expected to change. Barak Seener examines the strategy behind the bid and Israel’s reaction.
On 23 September, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas for- mally presented the PA’s application for full statehood to the UN General Assembly. This bid, which was greeted by celebrations in Gaza and the West Bank, followed months of speculation about whether Abbas would make the bid and how it might be received.

Abbas’ move came despite last-ditch efforts by Israel and the United States to prevent the formal application, with the US warning that such action could serve to undermine the long-running peace process. However, with the bid now having entered a protracted evalua- tion process at the UN, the focus has shifted back to events on the ground. In particular, the 18 October release of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldier Gilad Shalit – who had been held by Hamas since June 2006 – in exchange for Palestinian prisoners has drawn a clear line of comparison between the approaches of Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah, and raised questions about which may prove more effective.

Underlying these different approaches is the long-term disjunction in terms of perception of the aims of the various actors in the peace process. While the common understanding, and generally that of various Western interlocutors in the process, is that the conflict centres on territory and nationalism, this is only part of the issue. If it were simply about territory, the peace process might have been resolved decades ago. Instead, a complex web of ideology and identity, often even within the PA, continues to drive efforts at dialogue. It is these two separate cur- rents within the negotiating process that have led to the dual-track approaches of Hamas and Fatah, and which will dictate the evolution of the peace process.

Ideological backdrop

Despite the ongoing emphasis on the need for Israel and the PA to return to negotiations, the long history of such talks suggests that dialogue is less a means to resolve the conflict than a flawed attempt to manage it. At root, the aim of resolving the conflict founders on the incompatibility of issues of ideology and nationality, rather than territory, as illustrated by the long- standing issue of recognition. It had been a long time coming when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recognised a potential Palestinian state in a June 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University. In recognising a two-state solution, Netanyahu opened himself up to vehement criticism from within his own Likud party, as well as his right-wing and religious coalition partners. Conversely, Abbas has said to the international community, “Do not order us to recognise a Jewish state.

We will not accept it.” Netanyahu must also contend with coalition partners, some of whom are religious nationalists who refer to the Jewish legal prohibition on ceding any territory of the land of Israel. The non-negotiable approach to the conflict is expressed in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s phased approach of 1974, which was to establish an “independent combatant national authority” over any territory that is “liberated” from Israeli rule through the “armed struggle” (seen by Israel and the international community as terrorism). (Article 2 of the constitution). Articles 4 and 8 respectively establish a sequence of destroying Israel using a Palestinian national territory as a springboard for operations leading the provocation to war that could attract the surrounding Arab states to attack Israel.

Negotiations have often contributed to the ongoing stalemate. The PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Feisal Husseini called the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 and establishing a definitive framework for negotiation, a Trojan Horse. In an interview given to Egypt’s Al-Arabi newspaper in 2001, Husseini said: “Had the US and Israel not [thought], before Oslo, that all that was left of the Palestinian national movement and the Pan-Arab movement was a wooden horse called Arafat or the PLO, they would never have opened their fortified gates and let it inside their walls… The Oslo Accords were a Trojan Horse; the strategic goal is the liberation of Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.” It is this approach that frames both Abbas’ decision to bid for Pales- tinian statehood and Hamas’ prisoner exchange agreement, although the two appear very differ- ent on the surface.

Read Full Article: JIR_Palestine

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

The Obama Middle East Speech and Israel’s Reaction

(RUSI) – For Israeli policymakers, President Obama’s major Middle East speech on 19 May 2011 has been met with alarm. An American president has for the first time broken with the traditional US approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The end result may harden attitudes on both sides of the conflict.

The Obama administration has dramatically shifted from the United State’s traditional approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian talks since 1993 when President Clinton presided over the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords. For the first time, President Obama shifted US policy by being the first president to call for Israel to return to the 1967 borders.

His predecessors, President Bush and President Clinton purposely refused to refer to the 1967 borders. President Obama’s pronouncement is certainly a departure from the position outlined by President Bush’s 2004 letter to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -endorsed by a bipartisan majority, including ironically Hilary Clinton. The letter had referred to the fact that both parties would have to agree to any swaps of territory. The letter further declared, ‘in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.’ Similarly, the Clinton Parameters which was withdrawn by President Clinton before he left office, while referring to land ‘swaps and other territorial arrangements’, failed to mention the 1967 borders.

This traditional approach towards the conflict was in line with UN Resolution 242 of November 1967 that did not make its calls for Israel’s return to a ‘secure and recognised’ border as synonymous with the 1967 borders. This was due to its aim that the borders would result from negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Britain’s foreign secretary at the time, George Brown underscored this saying: ‘The proposal said ‘Israel will withdraw from territories that were occupied,’ and not from ‘the’ territories, which means that Israel will not withdraw from all the territories.’ This principle in fact had already been reiterated by the main author of Resolution 242, the British ambassador to the UN in 1967, Lord Caradon, who decades earlier admitted on PBS: ‘We didn’t say there should be a withdrawal to the ’67 line….We all knew – the boundaries of ’67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers, they were a cease-fire line of a couple of decades earlier.’ The cease-fire Lord Caradon was referring to was in 1948, when the five Arab armies were prevented from invading the newly created state of Israel and which legally formed an armistice line, not a recognised international border.

Read Full Article: RUSI

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Israel’s Geographic-Demographic Threat to Identity

(RUSI) – Mahmoud Abbas has begun galvanising the Arab world to embrace a one-state solution. He said to reporters in Saudi Arabia, ‘From a historical perspective, there are two states: Israel and Palestine. In Israel, there are Jews and others living there. This we are willing to recognise, nothing else.’ Yet a two- state solution does not reduce the Israeli-Arab challenge to Israel’s Jewish character − which calls for turning it into a ‘state of all its citizens’ or a binational state. In 2008, at the eighth annual Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade, Israeli- Arab MK Ahmed Tibi accused Israel of having established an ‘apartheid state’. Thus Israel’s unwillingness to coherently identify how to maintain its Jewish identity before conducting negotiations with its Palestinian counterparts has enabled both sides to demographically challenge its existence.

Israeli-Arabs

In December 2006, the Israeli-Arab Higher Arab Monitoring Committee advanced a one-state solution in a document entitled: ‘The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel’. The report called for a ‘consensual democracy’ that incorporated the presence of both Palestinians and Jews.1 Israeli-Arabs may not accept a ptgw3o-state solution wpigth7 a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and could advance a programme for self- determination. Israeli-Arabs pose a conundrum to Israel’s political establishment: if Israel reaches an agreement with the PLO, Israeli- Arabs will proceed to challenge the PLO’s status. On the other hand, if negotiations fail, a two-state solution will be questioned, allowing in its stead a one-state solution.
A two-state solution would not necessarily prevent Israeli-Arabs taking up the cause of the Palestinians as they did during Israel’s military operations in Gaza in 2008. In 2000, a poll published by Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot showed that 66 per cent of Israeli-Arabs would support the Palestinians in any confrontation with Israel, while only 13 per cent would support their own country.2

Israel’s Strategic Deficit

Israel’s sudden fear of a one-state solution should have been anticipated for decades. It is indicative of the absence of a culture in Israel that encourages long-term strategic thinking. This in turn has polarised Israeli society vis-à-vis its territorial borders. As a result, Israel’s political establishment has maintained an incoherent approach to its demographic balance, oscillating between outright denial of the threat and expression of the urgent strategic challenge it poses.

Read Full Article: RUSI Newsbrief January 2011

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Targeting Israelis via International Law

Barak Seener - Strategic Intelligentia

(The Middle East Quarterly) – Based on principles derived from the Hague and Geneva conventions, individuals have been brought to trial for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. The outstanding examples of such trials were those held at Nuremberg after World War II where numbers of leading Nazis were brought to court for some of the many crimes committed by Germany under the Third Reich. The shadow of those trials is still visible today. In July 2009, John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian accused of crimes while working for the Nazis as a concentration camp guard was deported from Canada to Germany to stand trial. On a smaller but significant scale, cases have been brought against individuals responsible for the genocide that took place during the Bosnian war of 1992-95. More recently, however, individuals and organizations with political grievances have started to make use of war crimes legislation in order to pursue a variety of officials from states equipped with well-run courts and tribunals, notably the United States, Great Britain, and—most of all—Israel. Should this matter to us? Aren’t war crimes clear and cut; shouldn’t those who commit them be pursued with the full force of the law? This essay tries to answer those questions and others

The poster of Dan Halutz, former IDF chief of staff and Israeli air force commander, is an example of attempts to delegitimize Israel and present its officials as war criminals for conducting antiterrorist actions.

Again and again attempts have been made to indict Israeli soldiers and civilians as war criminals when their only crimes have been to thwart terrorist actions or punish those responsible for murder.[1] A boost was given to this gambit when speeches at the Durban Conference on Racism in 2001 branded Israeli antiterrorist actions as “war crimes” and condemned Israel as “an apartheid state” that has committed ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide. This has set the tone for a series of attempts to summon Israelis before foreign courts, from Ariel Sharon and Amos Yaron (particularly with regard to the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut, which had already been investigated by Israel’s own Kahan Commission),[2] to Avraham (Avi) Dichter for the assassination of a Hamas leader while he was director of the Israeli security service, Shin Bet, to Doron Almog, an Israeli general accused of mass murder in 2002, and Moshe Ya’alon, former head of Israeli military intelligence (and later chief of staff), indicted for bombings in Qana, Lebanon, in 1996.
The sweep of charges is wide. The individuals charged have been important figures in Israeli life and major contributors to Israel’s security. Attempts to charge them with crimes against humanity have never been matched by calls to indict Palestinian terrorist chiefs. The bias is very clear, and it is inspired not by humanitarian concerns or a desire for justice but by political motives.

(for all references see the source article)

Read Full Article: The Middle East Quarterly

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Israel’s Strategy Deficiency

Strategic Intelligentia

(The National Interest) – Israel’s unilateral ceasefire in Gaza has left Israel with no strategic goals achieved. As attested by the Winograd Commission-set up by the Israeli government in 2006 to draw lessons from the then-recent war with Hezbollah-Israel, so adept at engaging tactically, cannot consolidate gains due to its numerous contradictory goals. One is forced to recall Kissinger’s statement decades ago that Israel does not have policy, but politics.

On January 16, 2009, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This statement constitutes the basis of U.S.-led interception of smuggled weapons into Gaza by monitoring the Persian Gulf, Sudan and neighboring states. The United States is taking a leading role in lending its military and intelligence assets, including detection and surveillance equipment, to governments in the Middle East that are allied with this endeavour. Why did Israel not push for this mechanism during the eight years it was being bombarded with rockets? Why did the Bush administration rush it through before it left office?

Ceasefires, like the one recently declared at the end of the conflict in Gaza, have traditionally been used by terrorist organisations to build up their weapons capabilities. They aren’t effective in the long term. The current ceasefire could heighten Hamas’s stature by recognizing it as a party and give it greater legitimacy. Hamas remains in possession of at least several hundred rockets, some of which are able to reach major population centers, and several others are still being lobbed at Israel.

Hamas’s capacity to rapidly reconstitute its capabilities was facilitated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who sought a ceasefire in and of itself without caring about its effectiveness at preventing smuggling and enhancing security for Israel. To this end he declared: “We cannot wait for all the details, the mechanisms, to be conclusively negotiated and agreed, while civilians continue to be traumatized, injured or killed.” Similarly, when asked about the exact details of the agreement, and what new contributions it provides, Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni acknowledged, “This is a beginning . . . I completely agree that we have now an understanding and it needs to be translated, also in the future, to more concrete measures.” Israel’s subscription to the vague agreement with the United States monitoring weapons smuggling into Gaza reflects the ambiguous aims that it had in going to war in the territory in the first place.

Read Full Article: The National Interest

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

The Threat From Israel’s Arab Population

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(InFocus) – While Iran and Syria, along with their proxies Hamas and Hizbullah, are often cited as Israel’s primary security concerns, Israeli Arabs are a growing strategic threat. What began as hostility toward the Jewish identity of the state has evolved into a growing identification with Palestinian nationalism and Islamism. Thus, the challenge posed by Israel’s Arabs to the security of the state is now characterized by religious ideology as well as political identity, making rapprochement increasingly less likely.

Israeli Arabs in Context

Despite allegations that Israel cleansed itself of its Arab population, Arabs have lived in the state of Israel since the founding of the state. Approximately 150,000 Arabs elected to live in Israel after the armistice of 1949. In accordance with Israeli law, the state took measures to ensure that Israeli Arabs enjoyed the same rights and privileges as Jewish Israeli citizens. Over six decades, however, the Israeli Arabs have developed a unique political identity, distinctly separate from the Israeli political identity, and often hostile to it.

In 2000, a poll published by the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot revealed that 66 percent of Israeli Arabs would back the Palestinians in any confrontation with Israel, while only 13 percent would support their own country. Similarly, a 1999 survey by the Institute for Peace Research at Givat Haviva found that 32.8 percent of Israeli Arabs believed that only “Israeli” was “appropriate to their self-identity.”

At the beginning of 2001, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) reported that 18.7 percent of Israel’s population, including East Jerusalem, was Arab. Today, the Israeli Arab population centers and political hotbeds outside of Jerusalem are found in an area known as the “Triangle” in Northern Israel, where the majority of the Israeli Arabs live.

Read Full Article: InFocus

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Transparently Corrupt

Strategic Intelligentia

(The National Interest) – The most transparent thing about the Palestinian Authority is its wastefulness. If the international community is serious about jump-starting the peace process, it can start by holding the PA accountable.

Without transparency, how can a government properly represent its people, let alone function properly? Western democracies police their own governments rigorously, but, unfortunately, these same countries fail to hold the recipients of their aid to the same robust standards. The international community’s support of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is a striking example of and a cautionary lesson in the perils of bankrolling a corrupt regime while turning a blind eye to its dysfunction. The PA’s lack of transparency, democracy and civil society has exacerbated hostilities with Israel, resulted in internecine conflict and served as an incubator for Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. But despite all this, $7.4 billion was pledged to the “Palestinian State” for 2008-2010 at the Paris Conference. The international community must cease paying endless lip service to the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Instead, it should force PA accountability through international donations, making contributions contingent upon transparent governance and setting benchmarks for the establishment of a stable and democratic state infrastructure.

Corruption thrives in the PA, as those controlling the purse strings benefit from the absence of accountability and by embezzling funds earmarked for critical infrastructure projects. Far from attempting to generate a dynamic economy, the PA-first under Yasir Arafat and now under Mahmoud Abbas-perpetuates a system based on monopolies in various industries granted by PA officials in exchange for kickbacks. At times during Arafat’s reign, a third of the PA’s budget went for “expenses of the President’s office,” without further explanation, auditing or accounting. The international community, particularly European governments, disbursed funds, often in bags of cash delivered directly to Arafat, watching silently as billions of dollars of international aid disappeared into personal bank accounts. Officials throughout Europe ignored the evidence of this widescale corruption.

Read Full Article: The National Interest

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Re-evaluating the Links Between the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Threat of Global Jihadism

Strategic Intelligentia

(The Henry Jackson Society)B.M.S. Your new book, ‘The Fight for Jerusalem’, is unique as it effectively manages to fuse both contemporary realities and policy analysis with the historical, cultural, religious and even archaeological backgrounds to the region. This is rarely achieved as focus is usually granted to only one of these factors at best. You demonstrate how historically, territorial concessions that are made as part of conflict resolution have become springboards for further terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world. In over a decade’s worth of experience with the ‘land for peace’ paradigm, has Israel not realized that this has generated further attacks? Why does it continuously revert back to this failed approach?

D.G. We have a deep perceptual problem across the Western alliance about how to halt the advance of radical Islam. Unfortunately many in the West believe that radical Islam springs up from ongoing political grievances with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed many European leaders are convinced that if they could resolve tomorrow the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, this would lower the flames of radical Islamic rage, weaken al-Qaeda, and improve the security of the Western alliance including the security of Europe.

However in ‘The Fight for Jerusalem’, I demonstrate that this assumption is completely false. In fact what leads to the spread and growth of radical Islam are not political grievances, but rather a sense of victory. That is the gasoline that is fuelling the engine of al-Qaeda. We also see this in several historical examples. al-Qaeda was not formed in relationship to any of Israel’s wars whether it be in 1948, 1948 1956, 1967 or 1973, but in 1989 when the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan and withdrew. That led the founders of al-Qaeda to conclude that they had just defeated a superpower. They had scored a huge victory against the great powers of the day and they were replicating Islamic history. In the 7th Century, the armies of Mohammed and the early Caliphs eventually decimated both the Persian and Byzantine empires, and spread Islam from N. Africa to China.

Essentially what we learn from the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan is that the sense of victory that the Arab mujahadeen who fought there had, led them to conclude that they should form al-Qaeda and challenge the other great Superpower-the US along with its allies. A second time a withdrawal has a powerful impact upon the growth of Jihadism is when Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon. That led to the perception that, “Israel had a national will as thick as a spider web”, to quote Sheikh Hassan Nasralla, the Secretary General of Hezbollah. It was followed by a massive rearmament of Hezbollah by Iran.

Read Full Article: The Henry Jackson Society

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.