France’s Fascination with Israel and Palestine

Remi Jouan/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations on 21 July, 2014.

Whatever its leaders say, France is once again caught up in the latest spiral of violence involving Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. This was made clear by the clashes that took place between protesters and the police on 19-20 July 2014 in Paris and Sarcelles after pro-Palestinian marches were banned. Since the confrontation resumed and Israel launched its Protective Edge offensive on 8 July against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed. Meanwhile, the Élysée has striven, against the odds, to prevent the conflict from being imported into France, in spite of the visibility of the issue and the fact that it is explosive enough to divide the French more than any other regional or global crisis. Since early July, peaceful marches and militant demonstrations – some pro-Palestinian, some pro-Israeli – have each been attended by thousands of people.

What is behind this enduring French passion for a conflict that is on the face of it distant, foreign, and complex? What domestic tensions and fractures does it really reflect? » More

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Israel’s Wall: 10 Years Justice Denied

Rianne Van Doevern/Flickr

This article was originally published 9 July 2014 by openDemocracy

“I spend up to five or six hours every day travelling just to get to university. Without the wall and the checkpoints, this trip would take 20 minutes.”

English Literature students Hala Liddawieh and Nagham Yassin, both 20 years old, live in occupied East Jerusalem and travel across the wall every day to get to Birzeit university, passing through the infamous Qalandia military checkpoint. Qalandia is one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank: to get past, residents have to walk through G4S-supplied body scanners, while Israeli soldiers check their identity cards.

A decade after its illegal construction, Israel’s wall casts a shadow over every aspect of Palestinian life. » More

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Are Security and Energy Concerns Moving Turkey and Israel Toward Reconciliation?

German Patriot Missiles in Turkey, courtesy of Medien Bundeswehr/flickr

This article was originally published June 20, 2014 by IPI Global Observatory.

Earlier this month, about 3,000 people marched through the streets of Istanbul in memory of the eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American killed by Israeli Defense Forces when the Mavi Marmara ship, known as the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tried to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010. The incident marked a nadir in Israel and Turkey’s strained relationship in recent years, and neither country’s ambassador has since returned to his former post.

Four years later, a possible reconciliation agreement between these former allies has fueled speculation of a normalization of relations between the two countries. The agreement would entail reparations for the Mavi Marmara victims’ families; a mechanism to rescind all legal claims against Israeli Defense Force officers implicated in the attack; and approval
to facilitate Turkish civilian aid to the Gaza Strip. » More

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Hamas and Hezbollah Agree to Disagree on Syria

Graffiti displaying the word “Hamas”. Photo: Soman/Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s Note: This article is included in our ‘Conflict Hotspots 2014’ dossier which can be accessed here .

Born of a common struggle against Israel and nourished by common benefactors in Syria and Iran, Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah have long been natural allies despite their sectarian differences. Ever since the early 1990s, when Israel exiled Hamas’ leadership to Lebanon, the two groups have cultivated an alliance that has shaped the Middle East’s balance of power for decades.

But the crisis in Syria has ruptured the old “axis of resistance,” with regional forces giving the two organizations opposing stakes in the conflict and bringing unprecedented tension to their relationship. While Hezbollah fighters have fought and died for Bashar al-Assad in some of the civil war’s fiercest battles, Hamas has thrown in its lot with the rebels and retreated deeper into the embrace of Sunni Islamist powers in the region. » More

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Winners and Losers in the Syrian Civil War

Syrian Flag

Photo: Freedom House/flickr.

The Syrian civil war, which has seen a stalemate for nearly three years, shows no signs of a negotiated political solution. The Geneva II peace talks, that opened on 22 January, are highly unlikely to result in a breakthrough, absent a miracle. There is irreconcilable tension between the oppositional Syrian National Coalitions’s (SNC) demand for a future Syria without President Bashar Al-Assad and Al-Assad government’s policy priority to secure international support to fight what it calls rebellious terrorists. That may well leave a military victory, either by the government or the opposition rebels, as the final option to break out of the deadlock.

If this were to happen, three recent developments seem to favor a possible win by Bashar Al-Assad. First, in recent weeks, government troops have recorded some notable military successes by reversing rebel territorial gains in the south and eastern parts of Syria and by stamping them out from areas adjacent to Damascus. Secondly, the continued infightings between rebel groups, particularly between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other moderate Islamist groups are damagingly reducing their fighting capacities against government troops. Thirdly, international support for the rebels is gradually drying out. The SNC agreed to join Geneva II peace negotiations after the US and Britain had threatened to withdraw support for them.[1] A win by President Bashar Al-Assad would, however, inevitably affect the interests and strategic matrices of the regional powers deeply involved in the Syrian civil war – Iran, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This point is explained below by highlighting what drove each of the parties to take sides in the civil war and what they stand to win or lose in Syria if Bashar Al-Assad stays in power. » More

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