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2017: Israel’s Year of Diplomatic Triumph

Jan. 29 2018

From West Africa to Australia and from France to Colombia, the Jewish state has managed over the past year to improve its ties with friendly nations and forge new bonds with countries that had once been hostile, or at least chilly. Benjamin Netanyahu’s official visit to India, and American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, are but the most recent such developments. To Eran Lerman, the example of Singapore is especially instructive:

In the past, the robust relationship between Israel and Singapore was formed by the security sector and was predominantly conducted in secret. (IDF officers, under the guise of “Mexican instructors,” were involved in building the small island nation’s ability to defend itself since its earliest days). Israel’s President Chaim Herzog’s visit in 1986 nearly sparked a military confrontation between Singapore and its Muslim neighbor Malaysia. Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin’s visit in 1993 was abrupt and unofficial.

[By contrast], the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin’s participation in the [2015] funeral of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew—one of the greatest statesmen of the previous century—raised no objections. In April of 2016, Lee Hsien Loong (his son, who today serves as prime minister) came to Israel for a visit that was the first of its kind. He even publicly addressed the issue of security assistance and the depth of the ties between the two countries. This new and overt stage in the relations between the two countries manifested itself by the time Netanyahu made his reciprocal visit.

Lerman explains what he sees as the reasons for the recent diplomatic moves, and their limitations:

The emerging transformation of attitudes toward Israel is founded, first and foremost, on an ever-widening recognition of the nature and severity of the common strategic challenge which totalitarian Islamism poses to many of the world’s countries. Along with this comes the growing appreciation of the benefits offered by a closer partnership with Israel in a variety of fields, including security and economics, innovation, and technology.

It is also easier to associate with Israel today due to Israel’s prudent management of the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel’s strategy of measured and low-key response to Palestinian provocations is proving to be a wise, long-term strategic approach. . . .

Of course, Israel’s diplomatic hardships are not yet a thing of the past. Israel’s positions on the Palestinian issue and on the future of Jerusalem have not been well received in Europe, including by close allies like Germany. The automatic majority against Israel in the UN General Assembly, even if it has been reduced, still exists. Russia’s policy in Syria and its close ties to Iran are troubling. The BDS movement is still active, and has scored occasional successes.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Terrorism

The Trump Administration Has Said the Right Things about Syria, but Words Are Not Enough

Jan. 30 2018

While praising the White House for recognizing that Iran poses a major threat to American interests in Syria, Jennifer Cafarella argues that Washington still needs a strategy for countering the Islamic Republic and its allies:

The Trump White House identifies Iran as a primary threat. It has verbally committed to the departure from power of Bashar al-Assad. It claims to prioritize repairing relations with Turkey, seeks to destroy al-Qaeda, and wants to refocus the U.S. on Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe. These are the correct goals toward which American policy should strive. . . . The problem is that the strategy Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has outlined [in a January 17 speech] will not accomplish these goals. . . .

American policy in Syria, regardless of any tough administration statements, is to accept Assad and his regime de-facto. . . . The “de-escalation” agreement that President Trump signed in November 2017 with Russia is a surrender not only to Russia, but also to Iran. It heavily favors Assad. In that deal, Russia promised to compel Iran to withdraw its forces from southern Syria. It never happened. Pro-regime forces violate the de-escalation zone with impunity. . . .

Tillerson uses vague terms like “deny their dreams” to describe our strategy against Iran in Syria. He identifies no clear goal against which the U.S. can measure success. He states that the U.S. must deliver an “enduring defeat” to al-Qaeda—and we certainly must. Yet the U.S. Defense Department has offered no vision of how to do that. The strategy Tillerson outlines—and that the U.S. is pursuing—amounts to outsourcing the problem to Turkey, which is actually working with al-Qaeda in Syria. . . .

Two administrations have sought to substitute rhetoric for action and to outsource American interests to local partners. The U.S. must abandon this approach and recognize Syria’s importance to American security.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Al Qaeda, Donald Trump, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy