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  • Author: Simon Henderson, David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On March 28, the Arab League will convene the annual summit of its twenty-two member states in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Despite a record of disunity and inconclusiveness, this annual meeting of Arab leaders remains the subject of intense interest in the region. Rising Sunni-Shiite tensions, talk of a peace opening with Israel, and developments in Iraq, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Lebanon have generated more attention for this year's summit than usual.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Palestine, Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Riyadh
  • Author: Mohammad Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As recently as December, Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas refused to back a proposal for a unity government offered by Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member and head of the Independent Palestine list Mustafa Barghouti. That deal was based on the concept of a technocratic compromise under which Hamas officials would not have held the prime ministership or led any ministries. Yet under the terms of the February 8 Mecca accord, the current prime minister, Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh, will stay on as head of the next government, and the only portfolios Hamas members specifically will not hold are the finance, foreign affairs, and interior ministries, which will be headed by independents acceptable to both sides. The key question then is why Fatah settled for a unity agreement in February that provided it far less gains than previous unity proposals rejected by Abbas.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine, Gaza, Mecca
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Mohammed Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Since the breakdown in talks over the formation of a unity government in mid-September, the Palestinian political environment has become more dangerous and dysfunctional. Paralyzed by ongoing international economic and political isolation, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has essentially ceased to function as tens of thousands of public sector employees continue to strike in protest against unpaid salaries. Factional violence assumed a new level of intensity on October 1 when the Hamas interior minister, Sayed Siam, ordered Hamas's security force to break up demonstrations by the mainstream Fatah-dominated security services, who were protesting after not receiving salary payments. The resulting gun battles left twelve people dead and dozens injured. Fatah loyalists responded to the incident in Gaza by targeting Hamas interests in the West Bank, burning offices, kidnapping officials, and threatening to assassinate Hamas leaders.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Economics, Environment, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: David Makovsky, Dennis Ross, Moshe Yaalon
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On July 10, 2006, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, David Makovsky and Dennis Ross addressed The Washington Institute's Special Policy Forum. General Yaalon, a distinguished military fellow at the Institute, is the former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff. Mr. Makovsky, senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process, is author of the Institute monograph Engagement through Disengagement: Gaza and the Potential for Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking. Ambassador Ross, the Institute's counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow, is a former U.S. Middle East peace envoy and author of The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Samer Abu Libdeh
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Even while Israelis and Palestinians are locked in deepening conflict over the kidnapping of a young Israeli soldier and the future of the Hamas government, political life on the East Bank of the Jordan River is increasingly focused on internal Jordanian concerns.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jordan
  • Author: Christopher Hamilton
  • Publication Date: 06-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Taken together, the kidnapping on Sunday of an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier and the signing on Tuesday of an agreement among Palestinian factions to create a unity government for the Palestinian Authority (PA) suggest that significant seismic forces may be developing within Hamas that may have a decisive impact both on the organization's solidarity and on the future course of Israeli-Palestinian relations. While the unity agreement itself has little significance beyond internal Palestinian politics—it is a nonstarter for the Israelis and represents a major retreat from previous Palestinian positions—its importance lies in the fact that it highlights the possible emergence of a fissure within the Hamas organization between its internal leaders, headed by Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, who experience the brunt both of popular concerns and Israeli reprisals, and its external leaders, chief among them Damascus-based Khaled Mashal, who are free of these constraints and therefore able to insist on more maximalist positions. However, in signing this agreement—apparently without full consultation with, or the approval of, the Damascus contingent—the Hamas leaders in the territories have signaled both their independence and their intention to embark on a more pragmatic path than that preferred by Hamas's more ideological external elements. Indeed, the timing and nature of the attack seems to have been specifically intended to disrupt the effort to agree on a unity government with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, and thereby, the possible emergence of a more moderate Hamas strategy.
  • Topic: International Relations, Defense Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Mohammad Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 06-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's pursuit of a referendum on the Palestinian National Accord has been widely interpreted by commentators and reporters as a power play designed to circumvent the Hamas-led government and force it to implicitly accept Israel's existence. But while the process of conducting a referendum -- the legality of which remains questionable -- would shift power away from the government and the legislature, the actual text of the document, which a group of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails negotiated, more closely resembles the political program of Hamas than that of Abbas. Moreover, Hamas has recovered from its initial surprise at the referendum initiative and has mounted an effective response, first by challenging the legality of a referendum, then by dragging Abbas into negotiations over the substance of the Accord. Despite a possible compromise that may emerge in coming days and shift the composition of the government or modify the language of the Accord, Hamas has used the internal Palestinian debate over a referendum to secure its internal legitimacy and advance many of its governing priorities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Ben Fishman
  • Publication Date: 05-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On April 7, the State Department announced its plan for restructuring aid to the Palestinians in response to the formation of a government led by Hamas, which has refused Quartet demands to recognize Israel, cease violence and terror, and accept past diplomatic agreements. In order to target assistance toward the Palestinian people rather than the Hamas leadership, the United States will now provide the vast majority of its aid (some $203 million) for humanitarian needs, including food, health, and education programs primarily administered by United Nations agencies such as the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the UN World Food Program. An additional $42 million is allocated for "securing and expanding democracy," in an effort that "protects and promotes moderation and democratic alternatives to Hamas." Assisting the development of such a peaceful and democratic alternative -- as distinct from an immediate overthrow of Hamas -- will require the United States to support programs driven internally by Palestinians that can foster a broad-based political movement. Bolstering a centralized Fatah-like organization run by elites will only lead to further corruption and the continued alienation of the Palestinian public.
  • Topic: International Relations, Corruption, Government, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: Elizabeth Young
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: As the international donor community struggles to determine its stance on aid to the Palestinians under the Hamas government, it is important to remember the extent to which the Palestinian economy is dependent upon Israeli decisions. Last year the international community gave the Palestinians $1.4 billion in aid; Israel has the potential to affect at least that sum through its policies on trade, Palestinian workers in Israel, and the tax revenue it collects.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: David Makovsky, Michael Herzog, Elizabeth Young
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the immediate aftermath of Hamas's parliamentary victory in late January, the Quartet—the United States, the EU, Russia, and the UN—set clear criteria for funding a Palestinian Authority (PA) under Hamas's leadership. The Quartet said direct funding would be a function of the new government's “commitment to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap.” Indeed, there is no other example of taxpayers subsidizing a government run by an organization that appears on State Department and EU terror lists.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Humanitarian Aid
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Soner Cagaptay
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Khalid Mishal, a Hamas leader currently residing in Damascus, visited Ankara today. Despite fierce debate in the Turkish press and objections from the secular-minded foreign policy elite, Mishal's visit went ahead with backing from Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. From the American perspective, the visit is important for three reasons. First, it could potentially hurt Turkey's longstanding role as an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Second, it serves as yet another foreign policy breech between Turkey and the West. Third, the visit is a telltale sign of the AKP's policy of “strategic depth” toward the Middle East, a policy that Washington needs to understand given U.S. objectives in Iraq, Syria, and Iran.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Politics
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Syria
  • Author: Moshe Yaalon
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 8, 2006, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon addressed The Washington Institute's Special Policy Forum. General Yaalon served until June 2005 as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. The following is a transcript of his remarks. “Hamas's recent victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections challenges all those actors currently invested in promoting change in the Middle East. These include Israel, Western nations, Arab democrats, and Palestinian moderates. Adding to this challenge is the perception of radical Islamists—Sunni and Shiite alike—that Hamas's victory is a defeat for U.S. policy in the region, a blow to democratization, and a victory for Islamist fundamentalism.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Mohammed Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 01-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: With just over two weeks left before January 25 Palestinian legislative elections, the mainstream Fatah movement remains bitterly divided, with some of its key factions advocating the postponement of elections and others demanding that voting be held as scheduled. Having publicly aired its internal problems over the last weeks rather than developing a clear campaign message, Fatah is unlikely to win more than 40 percent of the seats in the next Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Even though the question of Israel allowing voting in East Jerusalem now seems resolved, it remains to be seen whether elections will take place. If they do proceed, Fatah is certain to lose its monopoly on the Palestinian Authority and will require a coalition to form the next government.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem
  • Publication Date: 11-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On November 25, Palestinians celebrated the opening of their first self-governed external passage, the Rafah border crossing that separates the Gaza Strip from Egypt. Following months of negotiations, on November 15 Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) reached the Agreement on Movement and Access, governing the flow of people and goods into and from the Gaza Strip. Isreal's disengagement from the whole of Gaza, including the border with Egypt, made an accord on border crossings necessary. The agreement was achieved through extensive mediation by Quartet's special envoy, James Wolfensohn, and at the final stage through the unprecedented involvement of U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. The agreement is an attempt to balance Israeli security concerns with Palestinian political, humanitarian, and economic concerns.
  • Topic: International Relations, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Palestine, Egypt
  • Author: Ben Fishman, Mohammed Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In the leadup to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's October 20 visit to Washington, the Bush administration urged the Palestinian Authority (PA) to tighten rules enacted in 1995 and change the law governing upcoming Palestinian legislative elections to make it clear that candidates, even those backed by Hamas or other militant groups, could not incite violence or keep ties with militias. However, the PA seems unlikely to adopt this approach, in part because the administration reportedly backed away from its position. What alternative strategies exist for limiting Hamas's political influence?
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Palestine
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas returned to Ramallah from Washington last week having missed a key opportunity to spur President George W. Bush to reengage in the Roadmap. Instead, the October 20 joint press conference at the White House concluded with Bush acknowledging that his presidency may not witness the creation of a Palestinian state by 2008. His administration, Bush said, might merely “lay that foundation so that the process becomes irreversible.” The same administration that two years ago endorsed the Quartet's Roadmap to Israeli-Palestinian peace based upon a detailed schedule of commitments now expresses hesitancy on committing to any “timetable” for the creation of a Palestinian state. Bush administration policy has always had a performance-based rather than a time-based approach, but now it is not putting down any time markers.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On September 11, retired Israeli maj. gen. Doron Almog declined to disembark from an arriving Israel El Al airliner at London's Heathrow airport and flew back to Israel, thereby avoiding British police waiting with a warrant for his arrest. The warrant, instigated in part by pro-Palestinian groups, alleged that Almog had committed war crimes while head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Southern Command operating in the Gaza Strip in 2002. The airport incident has serious implications, the full extent of which will only become clear in time, for visitors to Britain from Israel and possibly America (due to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq). Israelis, Americans, and, indeed, British citizens could be vulnerable when visiting other countries as well. London's role in the Middle East peace process could also be constrained.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United Kingdom, America, Europe, Middle East, London, Palestine
  • Author: Mohammed Yaghi
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Empowering Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas and fellow moderates at this critical time may be in the interest of everyone who favors a return to peace negotiations, but Abbas himself faces immense challenges to his authority that make him unlikely to be able to implement significant changes in the four months left before Palestinian legislative elections in January. The weakened position Abbas inherited included limited control over security forces, paralyzing rivalries within the Fatah movement that limit any support for difficult decisions, and an increasingly assertive Hamas that constantly flaunts its ability to act independently. None of these sources of Abbas's weakness is likely to change significantly in the coming months. And, despite Abbas's intentions to establish law and order and begin economic revitalization in Gaza as articulated in a speech delivered on September 13, the chaos exhibited along the border at Rafah and in the old Israeli settlements immediately after the Israeli withdrawal demonstrates just how difficult his task will be.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Michael Herzog
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On September 12, the last departing Israeli forces closed the gates of Gaza behind them, followed by a salvo of Palestinian rockets aimed at southern Israel. In the unsettled aftermath of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank, only one camp seems clearly to know where it is heading -- the militant Palestinian Islamist groups, led by Hamas. These groups now profess their intention to continue their violent campaign in and from the West Bank. Their strategy, using armed and political capabilities, poses a serious challenge to both Palestinian and Israeli leaderships and may undermine prospects of improved Israeli-Palestinian relations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: David Makovsky, Elizabeth Young
  • Publication Date: 09-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: A key issue in the runup to January's Palestinian parliamentary elections is whether the radical Islamist party Hamas will be allowed to participate and under what conditions. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and foreign minister Silvan Shalom have insisted that the group disarm, disavow terror, and end its call for Israel's destruction before it is permitted to run in elections. Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas has favored an unconditional acceptance of Hamas's electoral participation, believing that it could coopt Hamas within the Palestinian political fold. However, he said in a Washington Post interview published on September 11, 2005, "A political party plus a militia is unacceptable," but he did not elaborate specific plans that would prevent Hamas from participating in elections as both party and militia.
  • Topic: International Relations, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Europe, Washington, Middle East, Israel, Palestine