Whatever the outcome of Israel’s post-election government negotiations, there is a historic surprise in the way most of Israel’s Arab-Palestinian majority parties, united under the Joint List, backed Blue and White’s Benny Gantz. Crisis Group Senior Analyst Ofer Zalzberg discusses the repercussions for Israel’s political landscape.
Originally published in Valdai
Originally published in The American Prospect
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Once again, the Islamic State may be poised to recover from defeat in its original bases of Iraq and Syria. It is still possible, however, for the jihadist group’s many foes to nip its regrowth in the bud.
The U.S. decision to leave troops in north-eastern Syria has bought the area time but not lasting stability. Washington should press its Kurdish YPG allies to loosen their PKK ties – lest Ankara intervene – and stop obstructing their autonomy talks with Damascus.
Israel is pursuing new ways of cementing its grip on occupied East Jerusalem, further enmeshing the city’s Palestinians while maintaining a Jewish majority within the municipal boundaries. These schemes could spark conflict. The new Israeli government elected in September should set them aside.
A standoff looms between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police over a shuttered building at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade. Israel and Muslim religious authorities should reopen the building to lessen tensions at the sacred site, where small incidents have blown up into prolonged violence before.
The Syrian regime vows to reconquer Idlib, the north-western zone hosting its hardest-core remaining jihadist opposition. But an all-out offensive would be calamitous. Turkey and Russia should recommit to their “de-escalation” deal for Idlib, bolstering it with measures that buy time for a lasting solution.
Russian mediation helped reduce bloodshed during the Assad regime’s reconquest of southern Syria. But for similar arrangements to work in remaining rebel strongholds, better security guarantees by outside powers are needed to prevent regime reprisals, improve aid flows and, down the road, facilitate refugee return.
La division au sein de la droite [israelienne] ne suffit pas à hisser Gantz à la tête d’un gouvernement, c’est juste assez pour empêcher Netanyahou de rester Premier ministre.
L'EI constitue toujours une menace qui pourrait métastaser si les FDS voient leur attention et leurs ressources détournées [...] au profit d'une bataille défensive contre la Turquie.
[By deciding to withdraw its troops from North East Syria] the United States just threw away the last leverage it had.
The debate about [whether] US should distance itself from the [Mideast] region and reduce its military footprint is important but somewhat beside the point. The more consequential question is what kind of Middle East the United States will remain engaged in or disengaged from.
Even if efforts to create a 'buffer zone' [in Northern Syria] succeed, the underlying source of tension will remain and with it, the potential for a Turkish military response to Ankara's perceived YPG threat.
The world apparently has long since tired of the war, and resigned itself to frozen conflict, with a nationwide cease-fire as the best possible scenario.
Turkey’s ruling party sees recent battlefield and electoral gains as vindicating its hardline policies toward the PKK. But these same policies fuel the Kurdish grievances that keep the fighting going. Ankara would thus be wise to consider exploring ways of winding down the destructive conflict.
Austerity measures have triggered countrywide unrest in Lebanon. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Heiko Wimmen says the prime minister’s emergency measures may be too little, too late. Most protesters appear bent on the government’s resignation if not the political system‘s complete overhaul.
Turkey’s incursion into north-eastern Syria threatens to reduce a region of relative calm to hotly contested terrain: it could meet determined resistance, cause mass displacement and revive ISIS. Washington should urgently press Ankara to stop the offensive before it advances much further.
After 13 years of maintaining the status quo, Israel and Hezbollah are now negotiating new rules of engagement.
Originally published in Middle East Eye