05Jul/22

Israel and Syria: A Decade of War

Nir Boms &  Stéphane Cohen 

Happy to share my latest long-form article that summarizes  over a  decade of Israeli involvement  in Syria following the Syrian uprising-turned-war that began on March of 2011. The article summarizes a decade of work on the subject that became central to my work  and that also serves as a  fascinating chapter of Israeli foreign policy  which included an unprecedented humanitarian operation at its core. In the last decade, I had the chance of meeting hundreds  of Syrians. The engagement with Syrians happened  in   Syrian Refugee camps; on the ground with the Free Syrian Army; at Israeli hospitals that treated over 5,000 of them; in Jordan, Turkey, Europe and elsewhere where some of the first meetings between Syrians and Israelis took place; and, also, around my Shabbat table  which hosted many Syrian friends and partners throughout last decade.  All of that resulted in what I hope you will find as a useful analysis.

The enclosed, written with my friend and partner for this work Stéphane Cohen attempts to summarize a decade of Israeli involvement in Syria.

In August 2021, Israel and Lebanon marked fifteen years since the start of the Second Lebanon War. A month later, in September, the world marked twenty years since the 9/11 terror attacks and the end of the United States and NATO campaign in Afghanistan. But the year 2021 also marked ten years since the beginning of the war in Syria that continues despite the attempts to stabilize the country and begin rehabilitation efforts.


Eleven years ago, in Daraa, Syria—not far from Israel’s northern border—antiregime protests broke out following the arrests of Syrian teenagers responsible for antigovernmental graffiti. The “boys that started the Syrian revolution” quickly became one of its icons, and Daraa one of its symbols. A decade later, in 2021, it seems that little has changed. Bashar al-Assad continues to serve as Syria’s president, sworn in for seven more years1 (a fourth term) as he receives renewed legitimacy among the ranks of the Arab League and even in Israel. The Syrian army and its security forces—the same ones who “won” the war in 2018—continue to fight an insurgency in the south. Syrians are killed from both sides—regime and opposition alike (“Syrians,” as the war taught us, became a relative term for militias and foreign fighters on both sides). In the summer of 2021, shortly after the presidential elections, the regime decided to put an end to the bloody insurgency in southern Syria and sent troops, supported by Iranian proxies, to again crush defiant Daraa.

Although Daraa continues to burn, a decade of war has brought tectonic change to Syria, just like it altered the way Israel engaged with that country, its people,
and the Syrian arena at large. A decade of Israeli policy and involvement in Syria will be examined here, and some initial insights about the years ahead will be
offered

Full article in Israeli Journal of Foreign Affairs here

17Apr/22

Warm Peace and the Challenge of People to People Relations after the Abraham Accords

U.S., Israeli, Bahraini, and Qatari flags on a mural celebrating the Abraham Accords

Washington Institute, Fikra Forum Policy Analysis

“Today, we already witness a change taking place in the heart of the Middle East, a change that will send hope throughout the world,” said Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE’s Foreign Minister when signing what would be dubbed the Abraham Accords at the White House in August 2020. A move that surprised many, the accords began to shape a new model for relations in the region—especially in its demonstrated interest in people-to-people relations. However, it must also be recognized that creating a “People’s Peace” needs more than words to become a reality. 

The Abraham Accords were crafted in a very different spirit than the earlier peace agreements between Israel and Jordan or Egypt. The Camp David Agreement of 1978 did in fact outline plans to establish normal relations between Egypt and Israel, including diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties. Furthermore, in 1982, a cultural agreement called for the establishment of two academic centers to facilitate cultural ties between the two nations. Yet actual people-to-people (P2P) relations remain effectively nonexistent. While an Israeli center was established in Cairo, it is guarded by Egyptian intelligence who make it clear that Egyptians are not welcomed. Likewise, after 40 years, the gates of the corresponding Egyptian academic center in Tel Aviv still remain unopened.


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17Apr/22

New Tensions in Israel – an Update 

For several years now, Israel’s domestic security situation was considered relatively good, with long periods of quiet occasionally punctured by few incidents and frequent reports of air strikes against hostile targets in neighboring countries.
Military Intelligence nevertheless continued to issue strategic alerts regarding an outbreak of violence emanating from the West Bank, due either to internal Palestinian tensions or individual frustrations. Whatever the cause, the warnings were proved correct with a series of deadly attacks on civilians in major urban centers.
With fear turning to panic, Israel’s political and security leaders tried to go on the offensive, responding to the series of terror attacks with “Operation Waves Breaker,” particularly focused on the Palestinian Authority district of Jenin.
How effective can such missions be and what are the possible repercussions?
Panel:
– Amir Oren, Host; Editor at Large, Host of Watchmen Talk and Powers in Play.
– Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Project Director on Middle East Developments, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
– Dr. Nir Boms, Research Fellow, Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University.
– Col. (Res.) Reuven Ben-Shalom, TV7 Powers-in-Play Panelist, Cross-Cultural Strategist and Associate at ICT, Reichman University.

30Dec/21

Pan Arabism 2.0? The Struggle for a New Paradigm in the Middle East

It is with  pleasure, following eight  months of work, to share the latest monograph I published titled “Pan Arabism 2.0? The Struggle for a New Paradigm in the Middle East” that attempts to analyze the GCC agenda in the decade that culminated with the Abraham Accords.  It argues that the Accords are connected to a broader vision of regional alignment and offer a detailed explanation to how this  “change of heart” came about.

The Abraham Accords, signed in September 2020 have helped shed a light on a new discourse emerging from the Gulf that seeks to challenge some of the old dogmas that have dominated the region in the last few decades. A decade of turmoil that followed what was once dubbed as the “Arab Spring” finds a divided region, full of ethnic and religious conflict, ungoverned territories, and the growing reality of failed states. An “axis of resistance”, led by radical elements from both the Shi’a and the Sunni world, is perceived as a growing challenge to a group of actors led by a number of Gulf countries who identify radicalization as an existential threat. Facing the “axis of resistance”, a new “axis of renaissance” is coming of age with an alternative vision that seeks to change the face of the Middle East. In parallel to the rapid decline of the traditional Arab capitals, the Gulf is emerging as a more significant voice in the region due to its economic, political, and media influence. This article seeks to capture and explain the rise of this new Gulf-led axis and the early formulation of a new agenda of a more tolerant Middle East through a radical reshuffling of the order of priorities in the region.   This is a long piece, co-authored with my colleague Hussein Abubaker. Read the full article here.