Syria’s New Map and New Actors: Challenges and Opportunities for Israel

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The civil war underway in Syria since March 2011 has changed the Syrian nation beyond recognition, and the shockwaves caused by the war have made a very strong impact,  both  in the Middle East and beyond. Following four decades of relative stability, Syria has become an arena marked by internal, regional, and international conflict. The weakening of the central government in Damascus, along with the transformation of Syria into a battlefield featuring many actors with different and often conflicting interests, poses new challenges for Israel. In the uncertain reality marked by the multiplicity of hostile actors, there are also opportunities for Israel to strengthen and possibly forge ties with pragmatic Sunni opposition and minority groups with whom it shares specific interests. This memorandum surveys the main actors currently operating in Syria, especially in the southern portion of the country; analyzes their attitudes toward Israel; and formulates recommendations for a new, proactive Israeli policy in the dynamic Syrian arena. It proposes modes of military, political, economic, and humanitarian action likely to serve Israel’s strategic interests. Chief among these interests are the need to maintain tranquility on the Golan Heights and the need to prevent the entrenchment of “negative” players on the Syrian side. For the full report, click here.
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Review of “The Journey to the Arab Spring:  The Ideological Roots of the Middle East Upheaval in Arab Liberal Thought”

Spring is always too short, it seems, yet it is always awaited. “Is the spring coming?” asks Robin, the locked child in Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.

“What is it like?”

“Well,” answers Mary, “it is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth.”

Four years into the Arab Spring, we have indeed seen the sun shining on the rain, the rain falling on the sun, and much movement beneath the soil and sands of the Middle East. With Islamist powers on the rise, a bleeding Syria, a crumbling Iraq, and a growing Islamic State, it might be considered brazen for someone to write yet another book on the Arab Spring. However, Govrin’s work is important and useful exactly because of this complicated context and “things working under the earth.”

The Arab Spring, Govrin argues, certainly did not occur in a vacuum. Although it was triggered by a certain sequence of events, he maintains that it was very much influenced by some two decades of liberal discourse. That discussion, enhanced and propagated by the developments of new means of media and technology, is one of the factors that led to the events that brought down so many Arab regimes and destabilized others.

Adapted from Govrin’s PhD dissertation at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this book takes us on a journey with a unique group of Arab intellectuals, who have been working from inside and outside the Middle East since the 1990s to liberalize and modernize the Arab political reality. These individuals, often referred to as the “New Arab Liberals,” are characterized by their (often controversial) work, which offers a different understanding of core issues, including governance, morality, civil rights, and the role of religion in state and society. Govrin, a senior Israeli diplomat who served in Cairo and New York and who currently directs the department of Jordan and North Africa at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, presents a view that is mostly academic, although his perceptions had to have been influenced by the fact that he is a resident of the region and has experienced the turmoil up close. View full post…

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What should be reconsidered after the Syrian peace talks in Moscow?

RD WEBCAST: With the first round of Syrian peace talks in Moscow now complete and the second on their way in March, talk is of how to adjust the “Moscow format” to produce a final settlement to the Syrian crisis.

The Geneva format for Syrian peace talks was supposed to pave the road to a comprehensive agreement and, ultimately, a settlement of the Syrian crisis. However, the last meeting in Geneva, which took place a year ago, delivered almost zero results and left the conflict without foreseeable hope for future settlement. In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry invited Syrian opposition leaders and the Syrian government to sit down and discuss the issues in Moscow from Jan. 26-29.

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share Humanitäre Diplomatie für Syrien im Stillen

Auf ihre Versammlung im vergangenen Mai hat die Weltgesundheitsorganisation WHO eine Resolution verabschiedet, die die „Verschlechterung der Gesundheitsbedingungen der syrischen Bevölkerung auf dem besetzten Golan als Ergebnis der unterdrückerischen Praktiken der israelischen Besatzung“ verurteilt. Die Resolution, Geistes Kind der syrischen und palästinensischen Delegierten, tat es anderen Versuchen gleich, Israel in internationalen und UN-angegliederten Institutionen zu verurteilen. Interessanterweise kam diese Verurteilung just zu dem Zeitpunkt, als eine weitere Gruppe verletzter Syrer die syrisch-israelische Grenze überquerte, um in einem Militärlazarett (oder Spital) behandelt zu werden, das aus eben diesem Grund auf dem Golan aufgestellt wurde. View full post…

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