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

Memo pic

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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Israel’s regional standing

Jerusalem Studio – Israel’s regional standing – YouTube

With the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, and a recent wave of violence that has contaminated the one country which relatively succeeded in staying-clear of the regional instability; Israel has encountered new challenges it hoped to avoid since the Arab spring of 2011.

Guests:

1. Mr. Zvi Mazel, Former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt, Romania and Sweden and a Research Fellow at the Jerusalem center of public affairs
2. Dr. Nir Boms, Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center – Tel Aviv University

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Israelis helping Syrian refugees: Balancing aid and diplomacy

In helping Syrian refugees in Jordan, Israelis are hoping to create new bonds

 

Mafraq is a single-story city in the desert flats of northern Jordan, built in beige and white, spiked with mosques and dotted with chalky vacant lots that suffice as soccer courts. The pores and meridians of Mafraq’s streets are clogged with bits of trash — snack baggies, mini coffee cups, old shoes, soda bottles, all kinds of plastic — that cling together in odd, twisty shapes, little trash monsters soggy with winter’s first rain.

This city of around 60,000, among Jordan’s most impoverished, has doubled in size over the past year: Mafraq is now half Jordanian, half Syrian. As the closest city to the Nasib-Jaber border crossing between Jordan and Syria, it has become a refuge for a tidal wave of people fleeing the civil war in Syria, the No. 1 absorber of refugees (per capita) in a nation that has absorbed almost a million — driving up the price of food and water and overcrowding the local housing market.“All the people in the streets are Syrian,” said Ali Shdaifat, head of the Jordan National Red Crescent Society branch in Mafraq. He said he has seen as many as 40 refugees stuffed into a two-bedroom apartment. Rent for one such apartment has gone from about $150 to $300 per month due to refugee demand, said Mohammad al-Khaldi, another local aid organizer. View full post…

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Old wars in a new Middle East

Strategic Outlook/ the Commentator

For the first time since the Gulf War, sirens were heard this past weekend in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. News stations broadcasted scenes of confused residents running for shelter along with instruction on what do when you hear a siren.  Fortunately, people here adapt quickly.  All of the sudden, long-hardened residents from down South were reassuring their friends and family in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion: “You have more than a minute before the missile hits” they say, “down here we only have 15 seconds!”

The escalation in Gaza and the Israeli response, a.k.a Operation Pillar of Defense, is the first Israel-Palestinian escalation to unfold in the “new” Middle East.  The last two years, the years of the Arab Spring, minimized the Palestinian focus of the Middle East. Instead, citizens of the region were out on the streets, taking down dictators, and installing new governments.  The people of the Middle East are still finding their way as blood continues to be shed in Syria. Israelis and West-Bank Palestinians had their own “mini spring” in the form of demonstrations against economic policies and rising prices although these issues will be left for the coming elections. As for the Gaza Palestinians, well, they were neither allowed to demonstrate nor to elect any leadership since Hamas took control of Gaza in a military coup in 2007. View full post…

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