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Temple Troubles, A Good Neighbor, Alexandria Restored


Palestinian Leader Halts Security Co-Operation with Israel Over Mosque Dispute

The Telegraph, July 23rd 2017

Recap:

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas halted security cooperation with Israel as a result of tensions surrounding the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa resides on the Temple Mount and is administered by Jordan.

The Context:

  • This month’s Palestinian assault that killed 2 Israelis on the Temple Mount prompted Israeli officials to install metal detectors and security cameras to thwart future attacks [1]. As a result, a cycle of violence has ensued resulting in the massacre of Israeli civilians and the killing of Palestinian protestors. The effects were felt as far as Amman when Jordanian contractors stabbed an Israeli embassy security guard.

  • By ceasing cooperation with Israel, Abbas hopes to coerce the IDF to stop activities within areas of Palestinian significance or control saying Israelis “will inevitably lose [2].” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman downplayed Abbas’ decision saying Israel will “manage either way... since [joint security] is a Palestinian need first and foremost.”

  • Security coordination is critical for both Israel and the PA to keep a lid on violence in the West Bank and stem Hamas’ growth. Cooperation between the two parties was last halted during the Second Intifada, and reintroduced when Abbas came to power in 2005. Last year, Israel and PA forces successfully foiled hundreds of attacks [3].

  • This week, the Israeli cabinet voted to remove the metal detectors but leave the security cameras. Palestinians insisted they would "never accept the current status, unless everything that was added after July 14 was removed.” [4]

Conversation Points:

  • What is the al-Aqsa flare up really about? Metal detectors and security cameras or Israeli involvement in Palestinian affairs?

  • Does Israel have the right to secure an area under Jordan’s custodianship?

  • Will officers on the ground, who rely on the cooperation of their Israeli-Palestinian counterparts, easily abandon those relationships if their safety is at stake?

  • Will Temple Mount troubles ever be fully resolved so long as the area retains significance to both Jews and Muslims?

For the First Time, Israel Describes the Aid Work it Carries out in Syria Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, July 29th 2017

Recap:

Israel made public the extent of its humanitarian aid to the civilian population living across its northern border in Syria.

The Context:

  • Israel and Syria have never had diplomatic relations.

  • As many as 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced as a result of the Syrian Civil War. The fighting has left many residential areas without running water or electricity and educational and health-care facilities are almost nonexistent.

  • Israel’s “Good Neighbors” program has covertly transferred 360 tons of food, 450,000 liters of gasoline and 50 tons of clothing to Syria. The IDF is also facilitating the construction of two clinics within Syria, which will be run by local NGOs and support 80,000 Syrians living in the Syrian city of Quneitra [5].

  • Coordination of humanitarian aid involves village elders in Syria [6] and IDF officers do not gather intelligence from Syrians who cross the border to ensure that future infirmed Syrians do not hesitate to utilize Israeli facilities for treatment [7].

  • Israel’s official policy regarding military support to moderate rebel groups that are fighting both the Islamic State and Syrian forces is under wraps however, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recently heard saying that Israel had carried out dozens of attacks against arms convoys in Syria making their way to the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Conversation Points:

  • Is Israel planting seeds for future non-belligerence through its humanitarian aid? Might that be an objective of their strategy?

  • If yes, might other nations view Israel’s aid to Syrians as being opportunistic and does it make a difference if Israel’s intentions might not be 100% altruistic so long as people are being helped?

Egypt Approves $2.2 Million Plan to Renovate Ancient Synagogue

Roi Kais, Ynet News, July 13th 2016

Recap:

Egypt's Ministry of State of Antiquities announced plans to renovate the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria at a cost of over $2 million.

The Context:

  • The Synagogue, located on Nabi Daniel Street, was built in 1354 and restored in the 1850’s [8]. It closed its doors after part of the ceiling collapsed several months ago.

  • The Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue is the last active synagogue in Alexandria, which once had a population of 50,000 Jews. Most Jews were forced out of Egypt by Gamal Abdel Nasser following the establishment of Israel [9]. Egypt, once home to over 100,000 Jews, counts roughly 18 Jewish citizens today.

  • Egyptian law stipulates that the Jewish community should bear the full cost of the renovation, however, the ministry agreed to cover all expenses.

Conversation Points:

  • Why did Egypt agree to cover the cost of the renovations?

  • Why aren’t Jewish refugees from Arab countries talked about as much as Palestinian refugees?

Notes:

  1. Mosque Crisis and Jordan Attack Raise Fears of Escalating Violence in Israel, Isabel Kershner, New York Times, July 23rd 2017

  2. Abbas confirms he halted security coordination, warns Israelis will ‘lose’, Dov Lieber, Times of Israel, July 23rd 2017

  3. Ibid.

  4. Israel removes metal detectors from al-Aqsa compound, Al Jazeera, July 25th 2017

  5. Operation Good Neighbor: Israel reveals its massive humanitarian aid to Syria Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, July 19th 2017

  6. On Israel's Syria front, aid turns into hearts-and-minds, Dan Williams, Reuters, July 20th 2017

  7. Operation Good Neighbor: Israel reveals its massive humanitarian aid to Syria Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, July 19th 2017

  8. Egypt Approves EGP 40 Million Restoration of Synagogue in Alexandria, Egyptian Streets, July 8th 2017

  9. Israel thanks Egypt for restoring ancient synagogue Israel, Ben Ariel, Israel National News, July 12th 2017


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