Media Centre

BICOM: Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre
Media team: +44 (0)20 3745 3348

The BICOM media team – what we can do for you

The BICOM media team works closely with journalists to provide a range of services. These include:

  • Arranging interviews with Israeli politicians, former and serving diplomats, academics and analysts at leading think-tanks.
  • Suggesting experts for media interviews or background briefings for articles on a wide range of subjects related to Israel and the Middle East.
  • Suggesting potential op-ed writers.
  • Providing the latest polling data from Israel and the Palestinian Authority
  • Organising media delegations to Israel both for those who have never visited Israel, and for those who are already experts on the region.
  • Hosting conferences, seminars and briefings in the UK with Israel and Middle East experts.
  • Offering briefings, analysis and background information on issues relating to Israel and the Middle East in the news agenda. This includes providing weekly analysis emails, a daily press review and bespoke briefings from BICOM’s Research Team.

For enquiries, please contact:

For out of hours enquiries, please call the media team on 07879 644 099 or email mediateam@bicom.org.uk.

************************************

Hezbollah’s hold on Lebanon provokes Israeli policy shift

 

20 July 2017

 

BICOM, the Israel and Middle East think tank, has today published a new strategic assessment of Israeli policy and preparedness in the event of a future war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The UN Security Council will later this evening be discussing alleged violations of UNSCR 1701 and the situation in Southern Lebanon.

The assessment analyses the increasingly close relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese state, including Hezbollah involvement in domestic politics and the Lebanese Armed Forces. This development has been publicly confirmed by Lebanese President, Michael Aoun, whose appointment in October 2016 was a win for the emerging pro-Iran axis in the region

As a consequence of this increased closeness between Hezbollah and Lebanese institutions, Israel has announced a change of policy and in the event of a war would attack both Lebanese and Hezbollah targets, contrary to operational practice in previous conflicts. Israel has made this position public in an attempt to deter a future conflict and to encourage the Lebanese government and the wider international community to deter Hezbollah aggression.

Today’s report concludes that Hezbollah poses a greater military threat to Israel than ever before. It possesses a vastly increased missile arsenal as a result of support from Iran and Russia, and significant military experience after fighting on the side of Bashar Al-Asad in Syria. More than 1,000 missiles a day could be fired towards Israel during a future conflict and this would likely overwhelm its missile defence systems.

The paper recommends that the UK government should proscribe Hezbollah’s political wing under counter-terrorism legislation and work with the international community to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the 2006 Lebanon war.

Key points:

  • Lebanon’s new president, Michel Aoun, has publicly confirmed that Hezbollah plays “a complementary role to the Lebanese army,” in direct violation of the demands of the international community, in particular, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended the previous Lebanon war.
  • Hezbollah continues to fight in the Syrian civil war on behalf of Bashar al-Assad and increase its missile capacity. It also uses aggressive rhetoric against Israel to try and shore up its domestic legitimacy.
  • Members of Israel’s security establishment currently believe that, in the event of a third Lebanon war, the Lebanese army will participate alongside or support Hezbollah. Israel’s strategy now is to widen its targets to include attacks on Lebanese infrastructure. It is publicising this strategy to try and deter Hezbollah from attacking it, and to encourage the Lebanese government and others in the international community to rein in Hezbollah’s aggression towards Israel.
  • Neither Israel nor Hezbollah are seeking to end the state of mutual deterrence that has characterised their relationship since August 2006, though the potential exists for a miscalculation by either side that drags them into another war.

 

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to Editors

We have experts in the UK available for broadcast interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.

The briefing can be downloaded from the BICOM website here.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK. 

************************************

19 July 2017

Responding to the Government’s announcement that it will spend £1m a year for the next three years on funding Israeli-Palestinian co-existence projects, BICOM CEO James Sorene said:

“We welcome this announcement from DFID minister Alastair Burt, but hope this is just the start of long-term UK financial support for Israeli-Palestinian co-existence projects

“Last week BICOM published a ground-breaking study of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding programmes analysing more than 20 years of evaluation data and speaking to hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank. The evidence is clear that these projects have profound long-term impact. One in five participants went on to devote their careers to peace building and an average of 80 per cent of people said they trusted the other side more and wanted to work for peace after taking part

“Based on all the evidence we recommended that the UK significantly increase its funding in these projects and we are hugely encouraged that DFID has made a clear commitment for the next three years. But to ensure long term change the funding needs to be long term and substantial.

“Our study is a comprehensive guide for practitioners and funders in this field full of practical advice to ensure success. We would urge DFID to study it carefully.”

END

Contact
Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Note to Editors

The report, “A future for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding”, can be read here.

We have experts in the UK available for interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

************************************

12 July 2017

LEARN LESSONS FROM NORTHERN IRELAND TO SOLVE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

New research concludes Israeli-Palestinian peace building projects lead to significant attitude changes, but must be expanded for maximum benefit.

A landmark new study concludes that grassroots Israeli-Palestinian peace building projects work and are a vital missing ingredient in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The ground-breaking study, released today, was commissioned by Israel and Middle East think tank BICOM, and written by Ned Lazarus, a Professor at George Washington University and expert on peacebuilding in Israel and the West Bank.

After the most comprehensive review ever conducted in this area, based on 20 years of evaluation data and extensive field work, the report proves that peacebuilding programmes work. Almost 1 in 5 participants were still heavily involved in peace building 20 years after attending their first event and, on average, more than 80 per cent of participants said they trusted the other community more.

Key findings include:

  • Policy makers should learn the lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process. Well-funded peace building projects that brought the two communities together were in place 12 years before the Good Friday Agreement and helped make it possible. They remain in place today, to protect the agreement and show that long-term investment in peace building can bring lasting change to intergroup relations in a conflict environment.
  • Peace building creates peacebuilders and constituencies for peace. For example, 17.5 per cent of participants in a programme run by the NGO Seeds of Peace went on to dedicate their careers to peacebuilding work.
  • Peace building changes attitudes. Peacebuilding programmes significantly improve Israeli and Palestinian participants’ attitudes to one other. Ninety per cent of participants in a project run by the Near East Foundation said that they trusted the other community more after being in the programme.
  • Peace building creates trust and empathy between the two peoples. A programme led by the Parents Circle Families Forum found 80 per cent of participants were more willing to work for peace and 71 per cent felt more trust and empathy towards the other community.
  • Peace building projects change policy. For example Eco-Peace, an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian environmental NGO has helped Israel double its water supply to the Palestinian Authority.
  • Sustained follow up is vital for success. One-off encounters were less successful than those that involved follow up meetings. The Seeds of Peace programme found that alumni involved in follow up meetings were twice as likely to remain active in the long-term than those that didn’t.
  • Despite the experience of Northern Ireland, and the evidence of successful peacebuilding in Israel and the West Bank, the UK is investing very small amounts in peace building projects. Just 0.2 per cent of the £68.5m DfID spends in the Palestinian Territories is invested in peace and coexistence projects.
  • The report concludes that the UK should join, and contribute significantly, to an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, following the successful model of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).

 

Jonathan Powell, chief British negotiator during the Northern Ireland peace process, who wrote the preface for this report, said:

“This invaluable report suggests a practical course of action for governments and civil society. While every conflict has different causes and solutions, we know from Northern Ireland that long-term grassroots peacebuilding between the contending parties is always essential to achieving peace.”

 

BICOM CEO James Sorene said: 

“This report establishes the clear evidence base that investment in peace building projects changes attitudes and recruits the peace activists of the future. Both are the vital missing ingredients for a successful negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and public support for its implementation. The evidence is compelling and the need is clear. This report is a wakeup call for the UK Government and its partners around the world to increase their investments in dialogue and peace building projects in Israel and the West Bank.

 

Professor Ned Lazarus said:

“Successful models for Israeli-Palestinian peace building have been established through decades of work, under extremely challenging conditions. To achieve broader, longer-term societal impact, these efforts need to be scaled up and to receive significant long term investment.”

 

John Lyndon, Executive Director of OneVoice Europe and Research Fellow at King’s College London said:

“This report is both timely and necessary, and can hopefully provide a blueprint for greater international support of civil society efforts to foster conflict resolution.”

The report sets out clear recommendations for practitioners and funders looking to help build the conditions for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

 

Recommendations for practitioners:

Legitimacy is crucial: Broaden the appeal of peace building to new constituencies.

Don’t ignore security: Address the concerns about what will happen after Israel withdraws from areas in the West Bank.

Deliver practical benefits: Talking is important, but so is economic development, the environment, health, medicine, and technology.

Use the research record: It’s time to share successful strategies and best practices.

 

Recommendations for funders:

Choose your projects carefully: Best to support peace building projects that further aims that are already broadly supported, meet clear needs, and enjoy some degree of official support by the Israeli and/or Palestinian government.

Diversify: Allocate more resources to increasing the kinds of people involved in peace building and the programmes on offer.

Strength in numbers: Support effective “umbrella” peace building forums that build up the capacity and the impact of peacebuilding projects.

Think long-term: Support the establishment of an international fund to “scale up” Israeli-Palestinian civil society peacebuilding.

 

ENDS

Contact
Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Note to Editors

  1. The report, “A future for Israeli-Palestinian peace building”, can be read here.
  2. The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) has invested more than 900 million Euros in more than 6,000 civil society peacebuilding programmes in Northern Ireland over 32 years.
  3. The IFI began its work 12 years before the Good Friday Agreements were signed. It promoted economic and community development, dialogue and cooperation within and between divided communities, tackled the underlying causes of sectarianism and violence and built reconciliation between people and within and between communities throughout Ireland.
  4. We have experts in the UK available for interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.
  5. BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

Endorsements from Israelis, Palestinians and peace building practitioners for BICOM’s report A future for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding

MK Hilik Bar, Deputy Speaker of the Israeli parliament. Head of the caucus for the resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict:

“The Israeli-Arab conflict is one of the most discussed conflicts in the world. There have been a great many peace plans and the research into the conflict could fill a library. So why have we not solved it yet? I believe three things are preventing it from happening right now.

First, interest: both sides must understand that peace is good for the other side, but essential and crucial for its own side even more. Second, trust: both peoples must feel deep in their hearts that peace has a chance. The individual Israeli must imagine (better, meet) the individual Palestinian and see a partner willing, just like him, to live in peace. Third, courage: only brave leaders can step out of their comfort zone and take the risk and pay the necessary price for peace. The one thing leaders cannot resist is public support. If both peoples will honestly show their leaders how much they support and trust them in their efforts for achieving peace, they won’t be able to step backwards. Each of those three elements – perceptions of self-interest, each peoples’ trust for the other and enabling the courage of leaders – are shaped by the practical peacebuilding projects discussed in this comprehensive and important report. I fully endorse it.”

 

Elias Zananiri, Vice-Chairman of the PLO Committee for Interaction with the Israeli Society. He is a former journalist and spokesperson for the PA’s Ministry of Interior and Internal Security:

“I would urge people to read Ned Lazarus’s important and timely report into the value of peacebuilding projects, not as an alternative to negotiations and the two state solution but as one way to help those negotiations succeed and ensure the two state solution becomes the basis for lasting peace between the two peoples.

“Let us all admit that barriers of hatred, suspicion, and ignorance of the other, and the reopening of past wounds with every clash between Palestinians and Israelis, continue to prevent the two sides from reaching a lasting and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution along the 1967 lines, as stipulated in the latest UN recognition of the state of Palestine on 29th November 2012. That’s why the work of both BICOM and Fathom is hugely important. Both know how to zoom out and look at the big picture, understanding the conflicting views on both sides, and then zoom in to address the differences. Both bring stakeholders together from both sides together and organise fruitful discussions. It is this kind of work that helps remove stereotypes and enmities between the two parties to the conflict, and that is exactly why this effort is needed.

“As a Palestinian who has been deeply involved in media and political activism throughout the past four decades or more, I can say that while the Palestinians have taken the strategic change in their approach by accepting the notion of the two state solution and recognizing Israel’s right to exist within recognized and secure borders along the June 1967 lines, we still see that the Israeli side has failed to reciprocate with this change in the PLO position.

“The joint work of BICOM and Fathom in facilitating meetings between the two sides, scrutinising what went right and what went wrong in the process of negotiations over the past two decades is very important. That’s how we address those differences and bring the two sides closer to understanding each other. Only by understanding the other and accepting the other’s existence can the Arab-Israeli conflict be solved. BICOM and Fathom are leading both of us closer along that route. Their encouragement of dialogue is highly important and our hope is that one day, sooner rather than later, their effort brings the fruit that parties to the conflict have yearned for.”

 

Polly Bronstein, CEO, Darkenu:

“This report is inspiring. In the last twenty years of terrorism and failed diplomacy, Israelis and Palestinians have become more distant, more fearful and less known to one another. Left or right; religious or secular: this trend should alarm all Israelis, as no matter what happens politically – Jews and Arabs are destined to be neighbours. By working together, overcoming fear and prejudice, maybe the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians can teach their leaders a thing or two, and prepare the ground.”

 

John Lyndon, Executive Director of OneVoice Europe and Visiting Fellow at King’s College London:

“The Israel-Palestine conflict is one of the most heavily researched in the world. Yet a shockingly small fraction of this research focuses on the millions of Israelis and Palestinians who share this land, their relations with one another, and how such relations could be improved so that a breakthrough might be possible. This report is both timely and necessary, and can hopefully provide a blueprint for greater international support of civil society efforts to foster conflict resolution.”

 

Ron Gerlitz, Co-Executive Director, Sikkuy: the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality:

“It is for many years now that different organizations and initiatives sought the promotion of a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, as well as the creation of an equal and shared society for Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.  These efforts have been made within a highly challenging socio-political context, which saw the political strengthening of radical voices who oppose Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement  and the promotion of equality for Arab citizens of Israel.

“Nevertheless, there are two additional serious challenges facing such initiatives: 1) A prevailing misconception according to which these efforts and initiatives have failed thus far in generating any success or creating real impact, and that it is not possible to promote Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement and to create shared society for Jews and Arabs inside Israel through civic activism within the current socio-political environment and context. 2) Lack of sufficient knowledge regarding the optimum and most effective strategic paths of action through which civic activism could contribute to achieving these goals.

“Hence, this report by Dr. Ned Lazarus is of utmost significance for different actors who develop, implement, and invest resources in these initiatives. The report indicates that, on contrary to the prevailing perception, civic initiatives have indeed succeeded in creating meaningful change and significant impact. Additionally, the report provides professional knowledge and invaluable insights regarding effective operation methods of strategic resource investment and civic engagement that will lay a solid foundation for the promotion of Palestinian-Israeli peace and equal and shared society inside Israel.”

Dr. Nimrod Goren, Head of Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies

“The stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process leads to a renewed international focus on the role that civil society can play in promoting peacemaking. Increased interaction and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians is vital to enhancing mutual understanding, promoting changes in attitudes, and empowering pro-peace actors. The contribution of civil society organizations to the peace process is traditionally regarded to be on the grassroots level. However, Israeli and Palestinian organizations are currently finding themselves increasingly capable of also making policy impact – articulating new ideas, bridging knowledge gaps, conducting policy dialogues, and contributing to diplomatic processes and initiatives. The timely report by Dr. Ned Lazarus, which provides an in-depth look at the future of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding is of high relevance and importance. It ensures that international thinking and practices regarding the role of civil society will not be limited to lessons learned in the 1990s and 2000s, but will reflect current realities on the ground, recent trends among Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations, and new knowledge in the fields of conflict resolution and transformation.”

************************************

4 July 2017

UK support for coexistence critical to Israeli-Palestinian peace

A new report recommends that to maintain a constructive role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Britain should contribute more of its aid funding to coexistence projects between Israelis and Palestinians, and improve financial aid guidelines to ensure funding is tied to results. It also recommends that funding should be continued and expanded to train the Palestinian Security Forces.

The report, “Supporting a two-state solution: effective UK policy to boost Israel-Palestinian relations”, by Israel and Middle East think tank BICOM, is based on interviews with both current and former British and Israeli officials who have been involved in the Middle East peace process.

It contains in-depth recommendations as to how the British government can support a two-state solution.

The report cites Britain’s expansive aid budget, security expertise and network of allies across the region as reasons why the Government is in an ideal position to play a key role in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The report highlights UK Government spend of £422m on aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) between 2011 and 2016, and that in 2016-2017 the Department for International Development (DFID), allocated £68.5m for eight projects that support the UK’s Middle East Peace Process Policy. The report details how this funding and expertise have already made a very significant contribution to training the PA security forces. For example, PA Security Forces now work hand in hand with their Israeli counterparts to prevent and arrest terrorist suspects in the West Bank and combat the ongoing threat from Hamas and Salafi jihadist groups. It concludes that this work should continue and be expanded. The research also found large sums of UK aid are invested in Palestinian schools where young children can become radicalised. The report recommends that the UK Government should do everything in its power to ensure high standards of teaching and prevent radicalisation.

The report concludes that the best route to Israeli-Palestinian peace is for more people on both sides to spend time together and understand each other. But just 0.2 per cent of aid money is invested in Israeli-Palestinian co-existence projects. The report recommends that the UK should contribute more of its aid funding to these projects and consider contributing to an international fund.

 

James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said:

“Britain is a very generous aid donor to the Palestinian Authority and large sums of UK taxpayers money is spent on Palestinian education. This should be a positive investment in the future of young Palestinians but far too often Palestinian schools normalise terrorism and radicalise children. The UK has world-class expertise in school standards and inspections, more can and should be done to prevent extremism and promote dialogue.

“UK aid should be invested in projects that will deliver solid results to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Negotiators on both sides lament the lack of peace diplomacy. Opinion polls show that each side fears the other. Yet evidence based co-existence projects change attitudes in a conflict. Britain has immense experience in this field from Northern Ireland, but of the £68.5m given last year by the UK to the Palestinian Authority to support the Middle East peace process, just 0.2% or £150,000, was spent on co-existence programmes. The evidence is clear, an increase in funding will reduce hostility and could even be a game changer towards achieving a two-state solution.”

 Recommendations:

  • Improve financial aid guidelines and ensure funding is tied to results

In addition to providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities in the Palestinian Territories, financial assistance to the PA is critical to supporting the UK’s policy of achieving a two-state solution. However, following the results of DfID’s investigation, the government must implement the appropriate measures to ensure that financial aid reaches the right people and that funds are not misused. Additionally, the UK should insist that UN run educational programmes are brought in line with international best practices, and are monitored carefully, to prevent radicalisation.

  • Continue and expand funding security coordination programmes

The UK should continue to support the US Security Coordinator’s efforts in providing training and support to the PASF and consider areas where it could be expanded. There is irrefutable evidence as to the value of funding for security coordination. Additionally, promoting security coordination between the two sides has helped facilitate an ongoing dialogue among high-level officials – although they are restricted to security-related matters – between the Israeli government and the PA.

  • Increase funding for coexistence projects

Fostering a constituency for peace and ensuring a strategic environment conducive to peace are vital components for building a sustainable two-state solution, which remains the only option that ensures an agreement that balances Israeli and Palestinian national aspirations. The UK should increase funding for coexistence projects, and work to increase the capacity of civil society organisations, in partnership with properly vetted groups already operating.

  • Support the International Fund for Peace

The UK should allocate funds for an International Peace Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, working with other members of the international community. Drawing on the strength of Britain’s strategic and diplomatic relationships with both Israel and Arab states in the region, the UK should encourage those in the region to contribute funds, as their participation can help foster an environment conducive to peace.

  • Set the conditions for a future bilateral agreement

Britain can use its position of influence on the world stage, including its special relationship with the US, its permanent UN Security Council seat, its position as an influential European power (albeit outside of the EU), and its notable soft power strengths to set the stage for a future bilateral agreement. The UK should make clear to the Palestinians that President Abbas’s internationalisation strategy and the ongoing issues involving incitement and antisemitism are contrary to UK policy. The UK should emphasise to the Israeli government the need to allow for greater Palestinian development in Area C. The UK should also measure support for international initiatives based on whether they are likely to improve the conditions for a future agreement and empower those actors from each side working to promote a peace agreement.

ENDS

Contact
Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Note to Editors

The report, “Supporting a two-state solution: effective UK policy to boost Israel-Palestinian relations”, can be read here.

We have experts in the UK available for interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK. 

************************************

27 June 2017

Fathom journal Balfour declaration Centenary – Special Edition

The new edition of Fathom, published today, is a special collection of essays and analysis to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

The latest edition contains essays about the genesis of the Balfour Declaration, fresh perspectives on how it should be commemorated and analysis of British policy in Palestine in the years after 1917.

Professor Alan Johnson, Editor of Fathom, said:

“Once again Fathom has brought together a collection of brilliant and original writers from across the spectrum to dissect a major historical event, and the consequences of it for modern Israel.”

Articles include:

Efraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad, tells the untold story of NILI, the World War One Jewish spy network in Palestine. He argues that the British victory against the Ottoman empire in Palestine and the Balfour Declaration were largely the result of this ingenious and courageous group of agents who paved the way for the modern Israeli intelligence service.

Fathom contributing editor Toby Greene argues that Britain should use the spotlight of the centenary to promote a positive vision for the future for both Israelis and Palestinians in order to improve the chances for pragmatists who recognise that two national homes is the only way to end a century of conflict.

Vice-chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, Elias Zananiri , argues that the British government bears a moral responsibility for the impact of the Balfour Declaration on the Palestinian people and should now compensate them by recognising a State of Palestine.

BICOM CEO James Sorene examines British policy in Palestine after 1917 and argues that, despite issuing the Balfour Declaration and then obtaining the Mandate for Palestine, the British government never clearly defined the concept of a Jewish National Home or proposed a concrete policy plan to implement it. This vacuum left both Jewish and Arab communities confused and frustrated and ultimately had tragic consequences.

Donna Robinson Divine examines the often traumatic experience of immigrants who moved to Palestine to advance the Zionist cause in the years after the Balfour Declaration, something that Israelis have only recently begun to do.

Azriel Bermant has delved deep into the Guardian Archive at the University of Manchester and revealed how pivotal Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann was to the discussions that led to the Balfour Declaration.

As well as producing a quarterly edition, Fathom will be publishing a series of new articles in the weeks ahead including: the leader of the Joint Arab List in the Israel Parliament Ayman Odeh,  former chief of the research division in IDF Military Intelligence Yossi Kupperwasser, a head-to-head on the NGO B’tSelem featuring its Executive Director Hagai El-Ad and the historian Gadi Taub, and work by Policy Fellow at Mitvim Institute Dahlia Scheindlin, and Law Professor at the University of East London John Strawson.

Extracts

Extract from Chaim Weizmann, the Guardian and the Balfour Declaration, by Azriel Bermant

“In 16 September 1914, Weizmann recorded in his diary that he had met C.P. Scott, the editor of The Manchester Guardian (later, The Guardian) who was quite ‘prepared to help … in any endeavour in favour of the Jews … Scott carries great weight and he may be useful’. This was something of an understatement.”

Extract from Mack: Aaron Aaronsohn, the NILI intelligence network and the Balfour Declaration, by Efraim Halevy

“Enter  a  small  group  of  fearless  youngsters  in  their  20s  and a  leader  who  came forward  to  take  command  and  control  of  one  of  the  most  dangerous  intelligence operations  in  the  history  of  the  Jewish   people…[Aaron] Aaronsohn and Avshalom Feinberg, his assistant in his research station, created a close-knit intelligence gathering group called NILI, an acronym for the biblical Hebrew phrase, Netzakh Yisrael Lo Yeshaker, meaning The  Eternal  One  of  Israel  will  not  Lie.”

Extract from The world of our founders: Being Jewish in Palestine after Balfour, by Donna Robinson Devine

“Immigrants, many teenagers or in their early twenties, separated from the comfort of family and birthplace, had to struggle not to feel themselves to be strangers in the new land. As Jews outside Palestine, they could embrace Zionism and its vision of a national home as an abstract ideal. In Palestine, Jewish immigrants could not help but see the national home as an unforgiving climate, an alien landscape, and an assortment of newly formed bureaucratic institutions whose rigidity and incomprehensibility shaped their lives.”

Extract from Repairing the World: why Britain should now recognise the State of Palestine by Elias Zananiri

“I  am  neither  a  historian nor  a  British  tax  payer  who wants  to  know  where  his  money  goes.  I  am  a  Palestinian  who  is  shattered  with  grief  when  I hear  that  the  UK  wants  to  celebrate with  pride,  in  Prime  Minister  Theresa  Mays  words,  the centennial anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, without even considering the implications of such  a  celebration  for  millions  of  Palestinians  who  lost  their  homeland  because  of  that Declaration.”

ENDS

CONTACT

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
T: 020 3745 3348
M: 07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to Editors: 

The latest edition of Fathom, and previous issues, can be read at http://fathomjournal.org/

Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region is BICOM’s quarterly online research journal.

************************************

23 June 2017

A new Gaza crisis?

BICOM, the Israel and Middle East think tank, has released a research paper looking at the current situation in Gaza, and how the UK can contribute to improving the situation.

While the research paper finds that the UK’s scope is limited, it recommends the UK should continue to work with like-minded states to help reduce the potential for violence.

In terms of humanitarian help, the UK already provides £33.5m per year to UNRWA to support the basic needs of Palestinian refugees and £0.5m per year to the UN’s Access Coordination Unit and Materials Monitoring Unit for humanitarian workers and materials. At a conference in 2014, the UK pledged £20m for Gaza’s “early recovery fund,” following the war.

At the moment Israel is trying to balance denying legitimacy to the terror group Hamas which runs Gaza, whilst avoiding a humanitarian crisis for civilians.

Key points

  • The risk of new fighting between Israel and Hamas is increasing as the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip deteriorates, but could be prevented or delayed by urgent international steps to address electricity, water and sewage infrastructure.
  • The dire situation has been exacerbated by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to reduce financial commitments to Gaza’s public services, including reducing payments for electricity supplied by Israel. It may also be impacted by pressure on Qatar from other Sunni Arab states to reduce support for Hamas.
  • Israel remains in a dilemma, on the one hand wanting to alleviate a humanitarian crisis and prevent another conflict, whilst also wanting to avoid providing vital resources to Hamas, to maintain deterrence, and to secure the return of Israeli captives.

 

  • The international community should make this issue a greater priority, not only for the sake of Gaza’s population, but also since it has the potential to undermine any attempt led by the Trump administration to build a regional peace process.
  • A much more urgent international political focus is required to address Gaza’s water, electricity and sewage crisis. Notwithstanding the need to avoid legitimising or emboldening Hamas, Britain should work with partners on urgently garnering the necessary international funding and convincing the PA and Egypt, as well as Israel, to do what is required to address these humanitarian needs.

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to Editors

We have experts in the UK available for broadcast interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.

The briefing can be downloaded from the BICOM website here.

Over the last year BICOM and Fathom have published several other evaluations of the situation in Gaza:

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK. 

************************************

30 May 2017

On the 50th anniversary of six-day war, ADL and BICOM join to produce interactive platform convening top Israeli and Jewish thinkers

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM), one of the UK’s premier independent research centres producing research and analysis about Israel and the Middle East, have partnered to produce an interactive web platform convening some of the top Israeli and Jewish thinkers, activists, politicians, diplomats, security experts and artists.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War in June, the two entities have launched 50 Voices, 50 Years, an exciting new collection of 50 diverse voices featuring contributions that reflect on the implications of this anniversary, its legacy for Israel and the Middle East, its meaning for Zionism and the Jewish state’s prospects for peace

“The Six-Day War is a defining event in the history of both Israel and Zionism. The debate over its legacy inevitably brings forth a diversity of viewpoints and at times deep divisions,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “Our aim is to build a platform to showcase this essential debate rather than avoid it, as it strikes at the heart of what it means to be a Jewish and democratic state as well as the future of the Zionist dream to be a free people in our land.”

“Israel and the Middle East were completely transformed by the Six-Day War,” said James Sorene, BICOM CEO. “It marked the beginning of the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the decline of Arab Nationalism, the rise of Islamist radicalism and strengthened Palestinian nationalism. “50 voices, 50 years is an ambitious project to explore the complex legacy of the war and its aftermath with contributions from some of the greatest minds in our generation. It is a fascinating range of views that will ignite discussion now and serve as a vital resource in the future.”

Some of the prominent contributors include Israeli President Reuven Rivlin; Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni; former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren; former Shin Bet Director Ami Ayalon; scholars Dennis Ross from The Washington Institute and Tamara Coffman Wittes from the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings; J-Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, among other notable figures.

The launch of the site follows BICOM’s activities to commemorate this watershed event in history. In partnership with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), BICOM hosted a conference, Israel and the Middle East: 50 Years since the Six-Day War, which consisted of several engaging panel discussions and remarks. BICOM has also produced a research paper on the legacy of the Six-Day War, published a number of analysis pieces and is carrying out social media projects on the topic.

ENDS

Contacts

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer

BICOM
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

David Robbins
ADL
+1 (212) 885-7715
adlmedia@adl.org

Notes to Editors

All 50 voices and additional resources are accessible through the following link: www.50voices50years.co

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organisation fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry. Follow us on Twitter: @ADL_National

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre, is an independent research centre producing research and analysis about Israel and the Middle East. Its aim is to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

************************************

19 May 2017

History and politics of Jerusalem

In light of US President Donald Trump’s trip to Israel and, in particular, Jerusalem next week and the speculation over whether the Trump administration will implement the 1995 US Jerusalem Embassy Act and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (postponed by every President to date), the BICOM research team has produced a briefing on the city of Jerusalem.

History

  • Jerusalem is sacred to all three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world for Jews, and was their ancient capital and the site where both temples were built in ancient times. For Muslims, the city is the third of Islam’s holiest sites, after Mecca and Medina. For Christians, the city is the site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
  • Jews have maintained a continuous presence in Jerusalem for more than 3,000 years, de-spite prohibitions on habitation and harsh conditions, and have been a constant feature of the city’s life. They have been the largest single group of inhabitants in the city since the early 19th century – in 1870 Jews made up 11,600 of Jerusalem’s 22,000 residents. In 1948, the year of Israel’s independence, Jews constituted 100,000 of the city’s 165,000 inhabitants. In 2016, Jews comprised 62 per cent of the city’s population, Muslims comprised 37 per cent and Christians less than 1 per cent, although over the years, there has been a decline in the relative size of Jerusalem’s Jewish population, with a concomitant increase in the proportion of the Arab population. The proportion of the Jewish population fell from 74 per cent in 1967 to 72 per cent in 1980, to 68 per cent in 2000, and to 63 per cent in 2014.
  • For 400 years Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire, until the British army under the command of General Edmund Allenby captured the city in December 1917. He was the first Christian in over six centuries to control Jerusalem. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George described the capture as “a Christmas present for the British people”.
  • Jerusalem stayed in British hands as part of the British Mandate from 1922 to 1948. In November 1947 the UN passed Resolution 181 that called for partitioning Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, and for a “Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem”. Whilst the Jewish leadership accepted Res. 181 with reservations, the Arab states rejected the resolution, leading to then Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declaring that Israel would no longer accept the internationalisation of Jerusalem.
  • Following the 1948 War of Independence Jerusalem was de facto partitioned for the first time in its history, with Israel controlling the western part and Jordan the eastern (including the Old City). In 1950, Jordan annexed the territories it had captured in the 1948 war. West Jerusalem was 38 km sq. and East Jerusalem was 6km sq. Although the UK and Pakistan were the only two countries that recognised Jordan’s annexation, the UK never recognised Jordan’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, viewing it as illegal.
  • In December 1949 Prime Minister Ben-Gurion announced that Jerusalem was an inseparable part of Israel and her eternal capital. This was echoed by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol following the reunification of East and West Jerusalem by Israel during the Six-Day War.
  • Under Jordanian rule, and in contravention of Article VIII of the 1949 Israel Jordan Armi-stice Agreement, Jews and Christians were restricted from visiting their holy sites. Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives and all religious sites in East Jerusalem.
  • The 1949 armistice lines were sealed as Jordanian snipers would perch on the walls of the Old City and shoot at Israelis across the lines. Christians were allowed access to their holy sites; yet they were subject to restrictions under Jordanian law. For instance, there were limits on pilgrims during the religious holidays, restrictions on religious charities and institutions buying real estate in Jerusalem, and Christian schools were subjected to strict controls such as teaching all students the Koran and Arabic and forbidding the teaching of Christian religious materials to non-Christians.
  • Also in contravention of the 1949 armistice agreement, Jordan permitted construction over Jewish holy places. For instance, a road to the Intercontinental Hotel intersected the Mount of Olives cemetery, destroying hundreds of Jewish graves, and 58 synagogues were either destroyed or converted into stables or chicken coops in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
  • On 27 June 1967, after Israel’s captured East Jerusalem and reunited the city in the Six-Day War, Israel passed the Law and Administration Ordinance (Amendment No. 11), which provided for the extension of its law, jurisdiction, and administration to East Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s boundaries expanded to include 108km sq. The next day Israel passed the Municipalities Ordinance (Amendment No. 6) Law, which authorised the Interior Minster to enlarge the municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem. In 1993 and 1998 Israel extended the municipal boundary of Jerusalem and has pursued a policy of building communities around the city to ensure it is never divided again.
  • Following the 1967 Six-Day War – when Israel captured East Jerusalem and reunited the city – Israel has maintained access to the Holy Sites for all people. The approximately 300,000 Palestinian residents in the municipal territory of East Jerusalem hold the status of “permanent resident” of Israel, meaning they enjoy various civilian rights and are entitled to welfare services such as National Insurance, health services, and municipal services.

A disputed city

  • Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital. The State of Israel has proclaimed Jerusalem to be the “undivided, eternal capital of Israel” and maintains its primary governmental institutions there. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) ultimately foresees the eastern part of the city as the capital of the State of Palestine. The international community has accepted the de facto application of Israeli law in West Jerusalem while the claim to internationalise Jerusalem is not seriously raised anymore.
  • There are no legal documents that clearly resolve the status of Jerusalem. The Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (DoP), signed between Israel and the PLO in September 1993, leaves open the status of Jerusalem. Article V of the DoP says that the permanent status of Jerusalem is one of the issues to be agreed by both parties in bilateral negotiations.
  • While many Israelis oppose any division of Jerusalem, Israel has offered to share the sovereignty of Jerusalem with the Palestinians for the sake of peace. In 2000 Ehud Barak offered dramatic concessions that would have allowed the Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state, and given the Palestinians control over the Muslim holy places on the Temple Mount, but this offer was rejected by Yasser Arafat. In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to put the Old City and Holy Basin under joint management by a special committee consisting of representatives from five nations: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the US and Israel.
  • The official UK policy on the status of Jerusalem in the peace process is that it should be the shared capital of both sides in a way that is agreed through bilateral negotiations and navigates Israeli and Palestinian sensitivities without causing serious security and logistical problems.
  • Although most foreign embassies are based in Tel Aviv, the US consulate-general, along with eight other countries, are based in Jerusalem and handle diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority. Five of them — the UK, Turkey, Belgium, Spain and Sweden — are in East Jerusalem. The consulates-general of the US, France, Italy, and Greece are in West Jerusalem. The European Union also has a representative office in East Jerusalem. In Israel there is a strong belief that if these countries maintain diplomatic mission to the Palestinians in the eastern part of Jerusalem, there is no reason why they can’t base their embassies in the western part of Jerusalem, which has de-facto been regarded as being the capital of Israel by the Palestinians in peace negotiation since 1993.

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Note to Editors

We have experts in the UK available for broadcast interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.

The briefing can be downloaded from the BICOM website here.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK. 

************************************

23 June 2017

A new Gaza crisis?

BICOM, the Israel and Middle East think tank, has released a research paper looking at the current situation in Gaza, and how the UK can contribute to improving the situation.

While the research paper finds that the UK’s scope is limited, it recommends the UK should continue to work with like-minded states to help reduce the potential for violence.

In terms of humanitarian help, the UK already provides £33.5m per year to UNRWA to support the basic needs of Palestinian refugees and £0.5m per year to the UN’s Access Coordination Unit and Materials Monitoring Unit for humanitarian workers and materials. At a conference in 2014, the UK pledged £20m for Gaza’s “early recovery fund,” following the war.

At the moment Israel is trying to balance denying legitimacy to the terror group Hamas which runs Gaza, whilst avoiding a humanitarian crisis for civilians.

Key points

  • The risk of new fighting between Israel and Hamas is increasing as the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip deteriorates, but could be prevented or delayed by urgent international steps to address electricity, water and sewage infrastructure.
  • The dire situation has been exacerbated by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to reduce financial commitments to Gaza’s public services, including reducing payments for electricity supplied by Israel. It may also be impacted by pressure on Qatar from other Sunni Arab states to reduce support for Hamas.
  • Israel remains in a dilemma, on the one hand wanting to alleviate a humanitarian crisis and prevent another conflict, whilst also wanting to avoid providing vital resources to Hamas, to maintain deterrence, and to secure the return of Israeli captives.

 

  • The international community should make this issue a greater priority, not only for the sake of Gaza’s population, but also since it has the potential to undermine any attempt led by the Trump administration to build a regional peace process.
  • A much more urgent international political focus is required to address Gaza’s water, electricity and sewage crisis. Notwithstanding the need to avoid legitimising or emboldening Hamas, Britain should work with partners on urgently garnering the necessary international funding and convincing the PA and Egypt, as well as Israel, to do what is required to address these humanitarian needs.

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to Editors

We have experts in the UK available for broadcast interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.

The briefing can be downloaded from the BICOM website here.

Over the last year BICOM and Fathom have published several other evaluations of the situation in Gaza:

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK. 

************************************

31 March 2017

Israeli-Palestinian teams held secret London talks to find new path to peace

Private talks between Israelis and Palestinians were held in London at the end of last year to explore new ideas to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Middle East think tank BICOM and Chatham House, the Royal Institute for International Affairs, hosted the secret meetings that involved former and current officials, academics and security figures from Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Key findings from the talks, set out in a new BICOM report, included overwhelming support for a two-state solution but a strong consensus that a single model for peace will not succeed. Participants agreed it was better to adopt a hybrid model based on the best of different ideas that have been proposed, blending them together for maximum flexibility.

During the talks the teams carefully assessed and critiqued four different proposed solutions to the conflict:

  • Bilateral negotiations focused on agreed parameters
  • A regional framework
  • Constructive unilateralism
  • Israeli-Palestinian confederation.

The report shows:

  • Neither side wants to return to the tired bilateral model of negotiations, without previous agreement, that has been followed since the Oslo Accords in 1995. In particular the ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ rule should be discarded.
  • Both sides agreed that a successful process relies on a secret bilateral back channel with strong third party involvement at the right time, including Arab countries.
  • Both delegations were acutely concerned about public opinion in their respective societies and agreed on the urgent need to create a single, strong civil society movement to build a constituency for peace based on mutual recognition.
  • The regional framework is important to solve security issues but the Israeli side believed that involving Sunni Arab states would have a very positive influence on Israeli public opinion.
  • Israelis and Palestinians continue to disagree about what constitutes the core of the conflict: Palestinians referred to the occupation as the principal reason for the conflict but Israelis saw the challenge as multi-dimensional, citing the need for recognition of the Jewish people’s connection to the land and the resolution of grave security issues.

James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said:

“These talks were constructive and serious, we broke new ground with some clear proposals for future negotiations and rare points of agreement. Today’s report is a unique critique, by both sides, of the various ideas that have been proposed and a valuable contribution to the ongoing quest for successful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

 

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Note to Editors

The report “New thinking on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: towards a hybrid approach” can be read  here. The report is a BICOM research paper produced by BICOM staff who attended and facilitated the discussions.  

We have experts in the UK available for interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

***********************************

15 March 2017

Edition 16 of the Fathom journal

Special edition to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War

A new edition of Fathom has been published today, offering a collection of top writers and unrivalled analysis of the 1967 Six-Day War.

Professor Alan Johnson, Editor of Fathom, said:

“Fathom 16 is a powerful commemoration of a seismic event in Middle East history, the 1967 Six-Day war. In this special edition, a collection of great writers give their take on key aspects of an event that is as relevant today as it was when it first happened.”

The edition includes a personal reflection on the War by Michael Walzer, one of America’s foremost political thinkers. Walzer wrote his seminal book Just and Unjust Wars in 1977, but he reveals that the book was born a decade earlier when, as an anti-Vietnam war activist, Walzer found himself defending Israel’s reaction to the immediate threat posed by Nasser. He writes that he “had to explain the politics of distinction,” and make clear that “wars are just and unjust”.

Former Knesset member Einat Wilf explains why the occupation is 50 years old.  She says that we must take account of the Arab and Muslim desire to bring about the end of Zionism and the State of Israel. She argues “there is a prevailing Muslim, Arab and Palestinian view that Zionism is a historical aberration that will not and must not last, and an ongoing refusal to compromise for peace, for fear it would legitimise Zionism”.

In a fascinating interview with Fathom Deputy Editor Calev Ben-Dor, Yossi Klein Halevi, author of the acclaimed book Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, argues that the Six-Day War signalled the beginning of the end of one utopian movement, the Kibbutz, and the beginning of another, focused on settlements

Professor Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland examines the responses to Israel’s victory in 1967 from the West German Left and the Communist regime in East Germany. Both displayed “a kind of obliviousness to the similarities between older antisemitic stereotypes of evil and powerful Jews and the attacks on Zionism and Israel as inherently aggressive, racist and even exterminatory”.

Liam Hoare outlines the rift between prominent Israeli writers during the war that continues to this day, by drawing a comparison between poet Natan Alterman and world famous novelist Amos Oz. Alterman instigated the”‘Movement for the Complete Land of Israel”, and tried to rally artists who believed that Israel’s survival and the continued flourishing of the Jewish people depended on retaining the whole of the land. Oz, on the other hand, was in the peace camp and believed that it was the liberation of a people, not land, that was important.

Matthias Kuntzel, author of the award-winning book Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11, argues in his essay that the main cause of both Nasser’s decision to threaten to destroy Israel in 1967, and the subsequent enthusiasm of his followers, was an “antisemitic impulse as it was carried over from the Nazi period to the post-war period and then to the next generation”. He proposes that it was not Israel or Zionism that provoked the 1967 war but “the latent anti-Zionism and antisemitism in the Arab world”

Ahead of the June anniversary of the Six-Day War, Fathom will be publishing a series of articles on the contested meaning and contradictory legacies of the Six-Day War, including an interview with Kanan Makiya on its legacy for the Arab World; Toby Greene on UN Resolution 242 and its relevance for today; Gilad Sher and Orni Petruskha of Blue White Future on how the settlers can be brought back to Israel proper and Meron Medzini’s memories as an Israeli press officer in 1967.

EXTRACTS

Extract from “Remembering the Six-Day War” by Michael Walzer 

“In Israel, fear was intense, widely reported, openly discussed. This had a lot to do with recent Jewish history, but it was also objectively true that Israel could not afford to lose a war. The state was too new, too vulnerable, too precarious; everyone believed that its existence was at stake.”

Extract from “As long as the Arab world views Israel as a temporary aberration to be conquered, Israel will stand fast” by Einat Wilf

“From the Muslim Arab perspective, violent opposition towards challenges to the proper pecking order was both just and numerically rational. Not only were the inferior Jews advancing an insane story of returning home after two thousand years, but in the first half of the twentieth century they constituted only a few hundred thousand challenging an Arab nation of tens of millions, backed by a Muslim world numbering hundreds of millions. Viewed in this context, the Muslim Arabs no to an equal, sovereign, Jewish, presence in their midst was to be expected.

And ‘no’ it was.”

Extract from “The Six-Day War and Israeli society: an interview with Yossi Klein Halevi”

“These shocks of  May 1967 were followed by the victory in June 1967.  So there was an emotional trajectory: from relief when   we realised that Israel was not  going  to be destroyed, to joy and pride at the defeat of our enemies, and finally ecstasy – even a kind of religious  ecstasy  for  many  Jews –  at the  reversal:  from  destruction  to  redemption.”

Extract from “Nasser’s Antisemitic War Against Israel” by Matthias Kuntzel

“Whoever believes in the Protocols will also seek to destroy Israel. And, indeed, Nasser’s obsession with the Jewish state was a constant theme of his time in power. Firstly, he considered Israel a bridge-head of Western imperialism, a conspiracy theory that gained some credibility after Israels involvement in the Suez crisis of 1956.46 Second, he considered Israel to be expansionist by nature. Arab unity means the liquidation of Israel and the expansionist dreams of Zionism he told a crowd in 1965.”

ENDS

CONTACT

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
T: 020 3745 3348
M: 07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to Editors: 

The latest edition of Fathom, and previous issues, can be read at http://fathomjournal.org/

Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region is BICOM’s quarterly online research journal.

************************************

14 February 2017

The Netanyahu-Trump meeting

BICOM’s research team has prepared a briefing on the upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump, which will take place in Washington tomorrow (Wednesday 15 February), giving context for the meeting and explaining the variety of issues likely to be on the agenda.

The context of the meeting

  • This Wednesday, 15 February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet US President Donald Trump, the fifth world leader to visit Trump since his inauguration.
  • For Trump, the meeting is an opportunity to further distinguish himself from the Obama administration, by displaying near-unquestionable public support for Israel, in contrast to the often-fractious Netanyahu-Obama relations over the Palestinian issue and the Iran nuclear programme.
  • Netanyahu – a veteran Middle East operator – will no doubt hope to shape the President’s and his administration’s Middle East thinking and develop the basis for a close long-term relationship.
  • He will be just as keen to reaffirm his leadership credentials at home, arriving in Washington under intense pressure from the hard right wing of his coalition on the Palestinian issue, and police investigations into breach of trust and bribery allegations.
  • The meeting’s agenda will include the Iranian nuclear deal; Syria and the threat from ISIS; as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the settlement issue, which may also open up the question of Trump’s election promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Iran and the nuclear deal

  • During his campaign, US President Donald Trump vowed to dismantle the “disastrous” deal with Iran, yet also to vigorously enforce it. Netanyahu waged a public and bitter campaign against the Iran deal before it was signed, and it remains a key concern. Nuclear restrictions will expire within 10-15 years, putting Iran in touching distance of nuclear weapons, and rather than moderating Iran’s behaviour, the deal has emboldened it.
  • However, with the deal a year into implementation, the trend among Israeli experts is to favour tighter enforcement rather than cancelation. Iran has already cashed in sanctions relief and repatriation of funds. Unilateral US withdrawal would not be backed by the other signatories, and could compromise those restrictions and inspections which were secured. Netanyahu will likely urge Trump to lay out steps for punishing Iran for violating the agreement and new measures to halt its development of ballistic missiles meant to carry nuclear warheads, but without unravelling the framework which currently holds back Iran’s development, albeit only temporarily. He will also press Trump to take a stronger stance against Iran’s wider destabilising regional agenda.
  • Netanyahu will likely find a receptive ear on this issue. Trump has already put Iran on official “notice” and imposed new sanctions targeting specific companies and individuals following its recent ballistic missile tests, whilst Republicans in Congress, who opposed the agreement from the beginning, have started introducing new legislation that, if passed, will broaden the sanctions on Iran to include countering Iran’s non-nuclear activities, such as its ballistic missile violations, human rights abuses and support for terrorism.

Iran, Russia and the Syrian question

  • More complex will be the question of Iran’s role in Syria and its relations with Russia. Trump seeks to turn President Putin into an ally, including for the purposes of a concerted effort to destroy ISIS in Syria. Trump signed a presidential memorandum on 28 January giving the Secretary of Defence until the end of February to present a “new plan to defeat ISIS,” and has mentioned his support for the idea of safe zones. How his policy will vary from the existing strategy, in which US and allied forces are contributing airpower, train and equip operations and special forces, remains to be seen.
  • From Israel’s perspective, Netanyahu will stress the importance of any arrangement with Russia over Syria preventing Iran and Hezbollah from entrenching their position there, although questions remain as to the capacity of the administration to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran. Israel entirely supports the goals of destroying ISIS, and Netanyahu will no doubt emphasise this point with Trump, but Israel nonetheless considers Iran and its allies to pose the graver threat
  • Israelis are increasingly concerned that Assad’s advantage in the Syrian civil war, achieved with Russian and Iranian help, will allow Iran to control a corridor from Iran, through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Israel is particularly concerned about Iran and Hezbollah turning the Syrian controlled part of the Golan Heights into a base to threaten Israel.
  • Until now, Israel has adopted a policy of non-intervention in Syria, acting militarily only when its interests were directly affected, in particular to strike advanced weapons convoys heading for Hezbollah in Lebanon. To this end it has established military coordination procedures with Russia. However, there are increasing voices in Israel calling for intervention within Syria to prevent hostile forces further establishing themselves in the border area.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The US perspective

  • The Trump administration’s moves on the Palestinian issue have been a source of confusion, and the meeting will be an opportunity to see if a more coherent position is developing
  • On the one hand Trump has drawn a line under the fraught Obama-Netanyahu relationship in particular by criticising his decision not to veto a UN Security Council resolution on Israeli building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, by nominating the pro-settlement David Friedman as ambassador, and by promising to move the US embassy in Jerusalem.
  • However, he has also repeatedly declared that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal can and should be done. Yet his appointment of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, with no diplomatic experience or significant expertise, to broker such a deal would be bizarre by the standards of any other administration. If Trump truly aspires to an end of conflict deal, it seems a mission doomed to failure, since almost no Israeli or Palestinian leader thinks such a deal possible at present, though there are many steps that could be taken to improve the current situation.
  • Remarkably, Trump has recently begun to articulate his own concern about settlements, telling pro-Netanyahu Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom in a weekend interview: “They [settlements] don’t help the process. I can say that. There is [only] so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left… I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”

The Israeli perspective

  • Netanyahu arrives in Washington facing a dilemma on the Palestinian issue. The right flank of his coalition, led by Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, demands he seize the opportunity of a supportive and open-minded White House to cancel his commitment to a two-state solution, made in a landmark policy speech at Bar Ilan University in 2009. The right of the coalition recently pressurised Netanyahu into accepting legislation to facilitate legalisation of settlement homes built on private Palestinian land. Although the law will likely fall before Israel’s Supreme Court, its passage indicates Netanyahu’s vulnerability. In a recent cabinet meeting Netanyahu responded to criticism from his right flank by telling ministers that had offered the Palestinians, “not exactly a state with full authority, rather a state minus”. In the public elements of his meeting with Theresa May, whilst committing himself to the search for peace, Netanyahu notably avoided the words “two-state solution”. Netanyahu’s sensitivity to his political base is augmented by the personal pressure he is under due to high profile police investigations into bribery and breach of trust allegations.
  • However, a more pragmatic strain of thinking, articulated in recent months by defence minister Avigdor Lieberman and leader of Yesh Atid Yair Lapid, and perhaps closer to Netanyahu’s own private thinking, is to coordinate policy with the US in order to receive its acquiescence to construction within existing settlement blocks, where most setters live and which Israel would hope to keep in any future territorial arrangement. In return Israel could hold back construction in more isolated settlements, thereby preserving the possibility of a two-state outcome. The Obama administration was unreceptive to such a differentiation, as have been European governments.
  • A model of sorts for this arrangement is the Bush letter to Ariel Sharon in 2004, in which the Bush administration acknowledged major settlement blocks would remain part of Israel, in return for Israel committing to withdraw from Gaza and some isolated settlements in the northern West Bank. Meanwhile Michael Oren, a deputy minister with responsibility for public diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s office, and former Ambassador to Washington, has been reaffirming in Israeli media interviews that Israel’s goal is two states for two peoples, although this position has become increasingly unpopular amongst Likud MKs. It remains to be seen how Netanyahu and Trump navigate the question of a Palestinian state in both the public and private elements of their meeting.
  • Whatever form of words they use, Netanyahu will likely reiterate his commitment to negotiate with the Palestinians without preconditions, but convey to Trump that the underlying barrier to progress is Palestinian intransigence, including their unwillingness to acknowledge Israel’s character as the nation state of the Jewish people, and their continued incitement to violence.

Broader relations with Sunni states

  • Netanyahu will also likely seek Trump’s help in establishing a more public relationship with Sunni Arab states whose covert cooperation with Israel has grown in recent years in line with their shared concerns regarding Iran. He will likely repeat his argument that this relationship could establish the basis for a renewed peace effort between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump’s Israel Hayom interview gave the impression it was an argument he had already been introduced to, telling the paper: “Maybe there is even a chance for a bigger peace than just Israel and the Palestinians.”
  • Trump will already have heard the concerns of Sunni states in the region directly. Among his first contacts with world leaders were calls with leaders of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq, and Trump met briefly with King Abdullah of Jordan in Washington. The Palestinian issue is far from being the top priority for any of them, but if it came up, they will no doubt have made clear that any upgrade of relations with Israel will depend on a clear Israeli commitment to bringing about a Palestinian state.
  • The issue of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may also arise. Trump promised to carry out the move during his presidential campaign, but has since stepped back, telling Israel Hayom: “The embassy is not an easy decision… I’m thinking about it very seriously, and we will see what happens.” The move, which would entail formal recognition of West Jerusalem (at least) as Israel’s capital, correcting an anomaly in international diplomacy, is one that many Israeli politicians cannot publically object to, even if some may have apprehensions that it could spark violence among Palestinians and the wider Islamic world. But whilst it may be mentioned in the meeting, Netanyahu is likely to let Trump take the lead on this issue, since the address of the US embassy is not his top priority.

Conclusion

  • This hefty agenda will not be resolved in one meeting, and this is the start of a process. However, the public remarks, and the reports of the behind closed discussions which follow, will provide some more indications of how the agendas of the two sides are developing with respect to one another. In the meantime, the optics, directed primarily at domestic audiences, can be expected to signify a warm mutual embrace.

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Note to Editors

We have experts in the UK available for interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK. 

*************************************

07 February 2017

Israel’s Regulation Law

BICOM’s research team has prepared a briefing on the Regulation Law, which was approved by the Knesset last night (Monday 6 February), giving context for the new law and explaining its impact on Israel and the West Bank. Please find it below.

Key Points

  • On Monday, 6 February the Israeli Knesset passed the third and final reading of Hok Hahasdara, the Regulation Law, by 60 votes to 52. The Regulation Law retroactively gives residents of up to 4,000 housing units in West Bank settlements the right to live in their homes which were built – some accidentally – on private Palestinian land, in return providing the landowner with an annual usage payment of 125 per cent of the land’s rental value.   The Law sits alongside other potential legislation being promoted in right-wing circles which includes plans to declare sovereignty in parts of Area C of the West Bank, beginning with the large settlement of Maale Adumim.
  • Shifts in both domestic and international politics affected the Israeli political calculus and created the framework for this piece of legislation to pass. The Law comes in the context of the evacuation of the Amona outpost and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett’s attempts at assuaging objections of their own constituents. The incoming American administration – far less critical, if not supportive, of the settlement project than its predecessor – led the Israeli government to believe that the tide had turned and assessed that a Trump Presidency would not object to these moves. Former American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, wrote that it is “difficult to imagine this vote would have occurred so soon before PM Netanyahu’s visit to DC without a clear OK sign from Trump Administration”.
  • The Regulation Law faces its strongest challenge in the Israeli Supreme Court and is highly unlikely to survive. Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has been one of the most vocal critics of the Law, declaring it unconstitutional and refusing to defend it in the Supreme Court. Critics of the Law, including Mandelblit and former Foreign and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, have warned of potential lawsuits that Israelis may face at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

What is the Regulation Law

  • Hok Hahasdara, known as the Arrangements Law, the Legalisation Law or the Regulation Law (hereinafter The Regulation Law) seeks to solve a situation in which, over several decades, Israeli housing units in the West Bank were built – sometimes accidentally – in open areas adjacent to already established settlements on land where individual Palestinians subsequently asserted property claims. As the Law states: “In many cases, settlements were built in agreed-upon areas, and were even encouraged or built in coordination with the state, or were built in good faith by the Israeli residents, who were unaware that this was privately-owned land. Leaving the situation as is in these settlements or their destruction is liable to seriously, unjustifiably harm those who have lived there for many years. Therefore, the regulation of these settlements is necessary.” The Law permits the State to retroactively legalise these settlement houses or outposts which are located on privately-owned Palestinian land and give usage of the land to the existing residents until there is a diplomatic resolution of the status of the West Bank.
  • This retroactive legalisation will apply in cases were Israelis living in the West Bank initially received government assistance or construction was carried out “innocently”. The Law defines government assistance as either initial or post-facto, and also includes the backing of local municipalities. It describes innocent construction as a situation in which the settlers did not know that the land they were building on was privately owned by Palestinians.
  • Regulation Law includes a monetary mechanism that would compensate any potential Palestinian landowners in return for the communities remaining in place. The Law says that a landowner can choose between receiving an annual usage payment of 125 per cent of the land’s value as determined by an assessment committee for renewable periods of 20 years, or an alternate plot of land if this is possible.
  • While the actual scope of the Regulation Law remains unclear, reports from Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now suggest it could result in the legalisation of 55 outposts and approximately 4,000 housing units in settlements and outposts. The Law also freezes all demolition orders against homes built on land claimed by Palestinians in these areas for 12 months, in order to allow the government to determine whether such buildings were built in good faith and/or with government assistance.
  • To alleviate concerns of the centrist Kulanu party within the coalition, the Regulation Law does not apply to three cases of homes built on private Palestinian land on which the Supreme Court has already ruled should be dismantled. These include the Amona outpost (which was evacuated on  2 February), nine homes in the Ofra settlement (delayed by the Supreme Court till 5 March), and 16 homes in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost in the Gush Etzion area.

The Regulation Law and Israel’s Supreme Court

  • Although the Regulation Law has navigated successfully through the Knesset, it faces a strong legal challenge in the country’s Supreme Court. The Law presents a significant shift away from the Supreme Court’s interpretation of international law regarding the expropriation of land in the West Bank, and Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has been one of its most vocal critics. During its preliminary and first readings, Mandelblit argued that the Law bypassed standard land regulation procedures in the West Bank and would be in breach of local and international law. He has also reportedly told PM Netanyahu that he was not prepared to defend it in court.
  • The Supreme Court has ruled that Israel holds the West Bank under belligerent occupation, and that the area is under military, rather than civil authority. The Court has thus historically allowed public or state land to be used for settlements, as well as privately-owned Palestinian land to be requisitioned for security or public purposes (such as building roads or the separation barrier). However, the Supreme Court has never allowed the State to expropriate privately-owned Palestinian land for the sole purpose of establishing an Israeli settlement. In order for the Regulation Law to survive a legal challenge, the Supreme Court would have to overrule this previous stance, a move that is highly unlikely.

The controversy in Israel surrounding the Law

  • Aside from those whose ideological position supports Jewish rights to the entire “Land of Israel,” proponents of the Regulation Law argue that it provides a solution for individuals and families who bought homes in good faith with the support of government agencies whose homes have subsequently turned out to be on private Palestinian land. They argue that the majority of the plots of land of which these housing units sit were originally built on uncultivated fields and in the overwhelming majority of cases, no individual Palestinians have come forward to claim them. While they see it as unjust that these Israelis should be under the threat of eviction in such circumstances, they also argue they are addressing the rights of Palestinian land owners through financial compensation.
  • The Regulation Law has come under fire from MKs both among the opposition and within the government. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog described it as “a bill for the creation of a bi-national state,” and argued that “this law creates de facto annexation, contrary to all of Israel’s international obligations.” Yesh Atid Faction Chairman Ofer Shelah said that “Netanyahu himself said that a legalisation law would bring us to The [International Criminal Court] Hague, and he is passing this illegal Law in the Knesset because [Betzalel] Smotrich [from Bennett’s national religious Jewish Home party] forces the Prime Minister’s hand in this coalition”. Echoing this critique, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid told his faction meeting that the “only reason this law is being raised is politics…they are passing a law that will endanger IDF soldiers, will endanger Israel’s international standing, will endanger our being a state of law and order, because they have problems within the coalition”.
  • Likud MK Benny Begin, a strong supporter of the settlement movement, was the only member of the coalition to cast a vote against, condemning it as a “looting bill” and stating that “this bill is not smart, responsible or stable”. Former Justice Minister and Likud MK Dan Meridor called the law “unjust and unconstitutional” arguing that it was “harmful to Israel and endangers all settlement in Judea and Samaria”.
  • Some within the coalition, such as Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi voted for the Regulation Law despite assuming it would be overturned by the Supreme Court. Over the weekend, Hanegbi said that “people on the right haven’t got the courage to tell the settlers the truth. It is reasonable to assume that the bill will not pass [in the Supreme Court]”.

The political context to the Regulation Law

  • With so many MKs opposed to the bill, and some within the ruling coalition predicting its rejection by the Supreme Court, the motivation to pass it can primarily be found in the political arena and is related to the battle between Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett for the leadership of the pro-settlement constituency, an electoral asset worth approximately three to five Knesset seats. As the current Knesset approaches the two-year mark, and with Netanyahu under threat of criminal indictment, an election may be closer than many believe and these votes might prove crucial in determining the next Prime Minister.
  • The right-wing coalition parties were put in an awkward position by a Supreme Court legal ruling requiring the government to evacuate 40 modular homes built illegally on private Palestinian land in the West Bank outpost of Amona. This evacuation led to a physical confrontation between residents and their supporters and security forces, which garnered angry opposition among the supporters of right-wing parties. The storm and controversy surrounding Amona created an added impetus for each party to try and position itself as supportive of the settlements and more determined to prevent more Amona-type scenarios.
  • Pressure from the international community – particularly the American administration – is another factor which has traditionally impacted Israeli decision making with respect to the West Bank, but which is now absent. Netanyahu was often deterred to pursue settlement policies by expected American condemnation. In fact, he reportedly postponed a previous discussion of the Regulation Law in December due to fear of how it would affect relations with the Obama administration. Obama was heavily critical of Israeli settlement expansion in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem and ultimately refused to veto UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2334 in December 2016, which termed all building over the former armistice “Green” Line as lacking any legal validity, and which was widely rejected by Israelis and their supporters across the board as unreasonable and unbalanced. The UN resolution also led to a mood amongst many Israelis of double jeopardy. That as the country would be criticised regardless of its actions, it should not be deterred by potential international condemnation for settlement building or legalisation.
  • Netanyahu frequently pushed back against pressure from his right wing coalition partners to expand settlements or promote annexation of parts of the West Bank by arguing the need to be cognisant of international concerns. American pressure also led Netanyahu to implement a one-time, ten-month settlement moratorium between November 2009 to September 2010 in the hope of renewing peace negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, although the gesture failed to convince Abbas to return to negotiations and he refused to restart talks for the first nine months of that period.
  • The transition from an Obama to Trump administration has therefore affected the Israeli political calculus. The election of Trump – who is perceived as a strong friend of Israel and who appointed a supporter of the settlement project as his ambassador to Israel – was welcomed by the Israeli Right and viewed as giving Israel a carte blanche on West Bank actions. The perceived change of position in the American administration has also enabled Bennett to pressure Netanyahu to demonstrate his commitment to the settlements, especially following Amona.

The international consequences of the Regulation Law

  • The passage of the Regulation Law will likely create diplomatic fallout from the international community, who will question Israel’s continued commitment towards a viable two-state solution. Despite its temporary nature, the notion of expropriating privately-owned land undercuts the government’s narrative that it supports the two-state solution and puts the government at odds with UNSCR 2334, which “calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution”.
  • The passage of the Regulation Law will also raise fears that it will strengthen those right-wing voices in Israel calling for “creeping annexation”. A bill proposing Israel annex Maaleh Adumim, a large settlement in the West Bank close to Jerusalem, is being prepared in the Knesset Ministerial Committee on Legislation. Bennett has suggested Israel annex Area C, an area comprising 60 per cent of the West Bank, a move which would destroy the chances for a two-state solution.
  • Critics of the Regulation Law, including Mandelblit and former Foreign and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, have warned of potential lawsuits that Israelis may face at the International Criminal Court (ICC). At the Palestinians’ request, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is soon to decide whether Palestine is a country and whether the court will discuss crimes committed in its territory. The Rome Statute that established the ICC believes settlements to be illegal and in 2012 the UN General Assembly decided to afford Palestine “Non-Member Observer Status”. Indeed, senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub confirmed the Palestinians’ intention to deal with the Law at the ICC.

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Note to Editors

We have experts in the UK available for interviews and background briefings. Please contact the press office for more information.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK. 

*************************************

18 JANUARY

2017 Middle East Forecast: the big unknown of Trump’s administration, the return of foreign fighters to the West, and the strengthening of Assad in Syria

The policy direction of President-elect Donald Trump’s administration in the Middle East is the big unknown for the Middle East in 2017, according to BICOM’s new report.

BICOM Forecast: The Middle East in 2017, published today (Wednesday, January 18), also predicts that the coming year will likely see the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq and the strengthening of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

According to the report, these events raise a number of challenges for the UK and the West, such as the rising threat of terror attacks in Europe, the return of foreign fighters, governance and reconstruction in former ISIS-held areas, greater numbers of refugees, and an emboldened Iran seeking an increase in regional influence.

The forecast identifies themes that will likely characterise Trump’s Presidency: the President-elect is certain to be open to Israel’s concerns and reject any efforts to exert pressure on it; he will also seek common ground with Russia, although it remains unclear whether a grand bargain will be achievable over Syria; and will be inherently sceptical regarding the nuclear deal with Iran.

Last year, BICOM’s 2016 Forecast: the challenges of a disintegrating Middle East identified a series of interlocking regional trends: fractured, dysfunctional, weak states with eroding borders; the rise and strengthening of sub-state actors; US retrenchment; Russia’s return to the region; Iran’s post-nuclear deal regional ambitions; mass refugee movements; and long term structural challenges surrounding issues of demography, water and energy.

Twelve months on, many of these trends have persisted and become exacerbated creating what remains a highly dangerous security environment.

James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said: “The Trump administration means greater uncertainty in a region already beset by fractured states, civil war and jihadi terrorism and while there is no indication that the Syrian conflict will end soon it is clear ISIS is weaker and Iran is expanding its arc of influence and control in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The main concern for the UK is what happens after the territorial defeat of ISIS and how many foreign fighters will come home and attempt to carry out terrorist attacks on our streets.”

In addition to a look at the year ahead, BICOM’s report includes top three predictions for 2017 from renowned Middle East experts, including Dennis Ross, William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Emily B. Landau, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS); and Paul Scham, Associate Professor of Israel Studies at the University of Maryland.

Other key points:

  • Other potential scenarios could create serious security challenges for Israel and its neighbours Jordan and Egypt. If the Iranian-Hezbollah axis were to take over the area in southern Syria bordering Israel and Jordan it would pose a significant threat to both countries.
  • In addition, ISIS fighters relocating to the Sinai Peninsula following the group’s territorial defeat in Iraq would constitute a grave national security challenge to both Israel and Egypt.
  • Additional issues and challenges to the UK in 2017 and beyond are the economic and security challenges facing Egypt, the significant reforms underway in Saudi Arabia, the challenges to maintain the viability of the two-state solution, and preventing the issue of Palestinian succession from turning into a crisis for the Palestinian Authority’s existence.
  • Israel’s warming ties with many Sunni states – with which the UK already has strong relations – provide an opportunity for building a new pillar of regional stability and should be encouraged.

ENDS 

Contact
Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
T: 020 3745 3348
M: 07879 644099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

 

Notes to editors

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK

*************************************

14 December 2016

Edition 15 of the Fathom journal

Released today, Fathom 15 presents new thinking from a number of distinguished authors on four themes currently afflicting Israel and the region: Stasis and Peace, Polarisation and Society, Insecurity and the Region, and Delegitimisation in the West.

The edition includes a take on the incoming Trump administration and the Iran deal, by Emily Landau – senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program.

Offering a ground-breaking way of viewing the relationship between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, Doron Matza, manager of the research division for strategy and policy in the Prime Minister’s Office from 1993 to 2014, proposes a new and important critical paradigm to understand the evolving relationship between them: “cooperation between rivals”.

Ruth Gavison, Israeli Law professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, contributes an explanation of the growing polarisation inside Israel about the relationship between Jewish self-determination, human rights and democracy, as well as a proposal that “democracy is the way for a demos of various identities to think together about how to structure their life together”.

Next year will be the Balfour Declaration’s centenary and 50 years since the 1967 war and the resulting occupation.Toby Greene, BICOM’s Senior Research Associate, issues an eloquent plea to use the Balfour centenary in Britain to look forward.

He argues that the Balfour Declaration was a statement of aspiration and is part of the narrative of salvation of the Jews. At the same time, for Palestinian Arabs, it is part of their narrative of catastrophe and dispossession. However, Greene argues the British should not try to re-write the declaration, but use the opportunity to understand what happened in the past and promote a positive vision for the future.

Professor Alan Johnson, Editor of Fathom, said:

“Fathom 15 is full of great writers thinking outside the box. Faced with a stasis in the peace process, deepening divisions within Israeli society, an ongoing regional melt-down and the Israel-Palestine wars on campus,  Fathom 15 spurns the old talking points in favour of creative thinking and novel ideas about how to change the reality in Gaza, shape the evolution of Hamas, mend Israel’s culture wars, build on the best of coexistence in Israel’s mixed cities, preserve the two state solution, and, with Trump’s inauguration looming, fix not nix the Iran deal.”

EXTRACTS

Extract from piece Mosul after ISIS: what next? by Seth Frantzman

“ISIS has led to a new permanent map of Iraq. If areas that remained within the government’s control are poor, then those that have seen two years of war and fighting will unlikely be rebuilt over the next decade. They may never be the same. An Iraqi government that can’t turn Baghdad and its own proximate areas into a success story, can’t rebuild Mosul.”

Extract from interview with Col. (res) Grisha Yakubovich– who spent the majority of his 30 years in the IDF in the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) – by Calev Ben Dor

As a young combat soldier in Lebanon I remember being full of hatred towards Arabs after residents from al-Aisha laughed at us following our commander being killed. My political views were then to the right, but my experience as a COGAT officer in Gaza gave me a more balanced outlook. Today I have no political stance – I define myself as a realist, because there is a reality and we need to do something about it.

Extract from Keith Kahn-Harris’ review of Ruth Sheldon’s book, Tragic Encounters and Ordinary Ethics: Palestine-Israel in British Universities

“Much of the book is devoted to showing… that the very idea of the ‘liberal university’ – premised on the ideal of the university as a kind of neutral space in which disinterested rational individuals communicate without undue passion and personal investment – prevents the kind of engagement with Israel-Palestine that recognises the complex personal investments that people have in the region.”

Extract from book review of Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East, by David Lowe

“Future US defence secretaries can do themselves a favour by buying Ike’s Gamble and giving it their superiors in the White House. The book is an excellent case study of how decision makers can learn from the results of mistaken assumptions and not be deterred from making the necessary corrections.”

ENDS

CONTACT
Thais Portilho, Head of Communications
T: 020 7636 5500
M: 07879 644 099
thaisp@bicom.org.uk

 

Notes to Editors:

The latest edition of Fathom, and previous issues, can be read at http://fathomjournal.org/

Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region is BICOM’s quarterly online research journal.

*************************************

12 December 2016
New antisemitism definition a huge leap forward

Commenting on Theresa May’s announcement that she will be adopting an official definition of antisemitism, James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said:

“This is a huge leap forward in the fight against antisemitism and a robust statement of intent from the Prime Minister. Adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance(IHRA) definition means the Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and public bodies will be able to deal with antisemitism in all its forms and properly address how it has tragically expanded and evolved in the UK today. We look forward to hearing more detail about how the definition, and accompanying guidance notes, will be adopted in the UK, in particular those sections that cover Holocaust denial and demonising and delegitimising Israel.”

ENDS

Contact
Charlotte Henry
Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk 

Notes to editors

BICOM’s submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into antisemitism can be read here.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

4 November 2016

New BICOM/Populus poll finds even stronger opposition to boycotts of Israel

The number of British people who do not support economic boycotts of Israel has soared over the last year, according to exclusive new polling.

A new Populus opinion poll for Israel and Middle East think tank BICOM has revealed that 51 per cent of people “do not boycott Israeli goods, and find it difficult to see why others would single out Israel given everything else that is going on in the world”.  This is up eight per cent compared to last year’s survey. 12 per cent disagree with the statement.

56 per cent of people agree that a boycott hurts both Palestinians and Israelis and this has increased by nine per cent since October 2015.

Britons are also more than twice as likely to agree as disagree that hating Israel and questioning its right to exist is antisemitic. 48 per cent of people believe that it is antisemitic, while only 20 per cent believe that it is not. 57 per cent of people however agree that just criticising Israel is not antisemitic.

There has been an increase in the number of people agreeing with the British policy in 1917 to support the creation of a Jewish homeland, as expressed in the Balfour Declaration. The finding is especially revealing given that the document approaches its centenary in 2017. 43 per cent say they agree with the policy, up from 40 per cent the year before.

Israel is still considered to be Britain’s strongest ally in the Middle East. 57 per cent of Britons regard Israel as an ally of Britain in the Middle East, up from 52 per cent from October 2015 and the highest figure for countries in the region.

Overall British warmth towards Israel remains stable at 19 per cent, while British warmth towards Israelis is at 24 per cent. This is in comparison to 20 per cent warmth towards Palestinians, and 11 per cent support for the Palestinian authority.

Commenting on the findings, James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said:

“Our poll show a very significant shift against the idea of boycotting Israel. The majority opposing it has increased by as much as eight per cent over the past year. The British sense of fair play is a clear theme in the poll as time and again respondents reject singling out Israel, given everything else going on in the world.

“In a year where we have seen several public figures attempt to explain their hatred of Israel as a political position, the judgement of the British people is stark. They clearly understand that hating Israel and questioning its right to exist is antisemitism, pure and simple.

“Israel is rightly seen as a strong ally of Britain, and Brits agree with the part we played declaring our support for a Jewish homeland in the aftermath of the First World War almost 100 years ago.”

Key findings:

  • The number of Britons who regard Israel as an ally in the region has increased. 57 per cent now say that Israel is a British ally, compared to 52 per cent in 2015.
  • 51 per cent of people would not boycott Israeli goods, and find it difficult to see why others would single out Israel given everything else that is going on in the world. This is up eight per cent from last year, when 43 per cent held this view.
  • 48 per cent of people believe that “hating Israel and questioning its right to exist is antisemitic”. This is more than double the 20 per cent of people who believe that is not antisemitic.
  • 19 per cent of Britons feel warmth towards Israel, while British warmth towards Israelis is at 24 per cent. This is in comparison to 20 per cent warmth for Palestinians, and just 11 per cent warmth for the Palestinian Authority.
  • 43 per cent of people support the Balfour declaration that indicated Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1917 up from 40 per cent the year before.
  • ISIS is seen as the greatest threat to both Britain and Israel. 75 per cent think the terror group is a threat to the UK, while 60 per cent think it is a threat to Israel. Hamas is considered a threat to Britain by 15 per cent of respondents, and Hezbollah by 14 per cent of respondents. This numbers more than doubles to 35 per cent and 32 per cent respectively when respondents are asked if Hamas and Hezbollah are considered to be a threat to Israel.

Contact
Charlotte Henry
Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors:

On behalf of BICOM Populus surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,054 GB adults online between 14 and 16 October 2016. An additional survey was conducted by Populus with a nationally representative sample of 2,042 GB adults online between 7 and 9 October 2016

James Sorene is available for interview.

Infographics and graphs available on request.

Countries and groups that are considered a threat to Israel – ISIS (60 per cent), Hamas (35 per cent), Hezbollah (32 per cent), Iran (28 per cent), Russia (18 per cent), Egypt (nine per cent), Turkey (eight per cent).

Countries and groups that are considered a threat to the UK – ISIS (75 per cent), Russia (22 per cent), Iran (16 per cent), Hamas (15 per cent), Hezbollah (14 per cent), Turkey (seven per cent), Egypt (five per cent). 

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

16 October 2016

BICOM responds to the Home Affairs Select Committee antisemitism inquiry report

BICOM, the Israel and Middle East think tank, welcomes the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) report into antisemitism in the UK.

James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said:

“This report brings much needed clarity where previously there has been denial, obfuscation and abdication of responsibility.

“I welcome the committee’s condemnation of ‘Zionist’ as a term of abuse and the recommendation that in such a context it should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic. This issue was highlighted in BICOM’s submission to the inquiry.

“We also agree that Baroness Chakrabarti’s report into antisemitism did not go far enough, failing to acknowledge an issue of antisemitic anti-Zionism that BICOM has highlighted in our extensive research on this issue.

“As the Committee states, criticising the Government of Israel is entirely legitimate, as is criticism of any Government, but abusing Jewish people and claiming it is about Israel or Zionism can never be justified in any circumstances.

“Those who portray the existence of Israel as a crime and indulge dangerous fantasies about the country no longer existing are not only deeply offensive, but antisemitic. There is a constructive debate in the UK about how to reach a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of which we are a part. Those that tolerate or indulge antisemitic anti-Zionism place themselves outside of that debate.”

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry
Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors:

BICOM’s submission to the HASC inquiry into antisemitism can be read in full here.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

19 September 2016

Edition 14 of the Fathom journal

Tech entrepreneur Reem Younis explains the need for more investment in Arab entrepreneurship, author Ben Cohen criticises Obama’s Iran delusion, Jonathan Rynhold examines the potential benefits and pitfalls of Brexit to Israel, and more.

Leading female Arab-Israeli entrepreneur Reem Younis is the co-founder of Nazareth-based Alpha Omega, a global high-tech company that seeks to further high-tech skills, employment and entrepreneurship among Israel’s Arab citizens.

She argues for a new sensibility to the Arab minority and to Israel’s periphery in order to boost the employment of Arabs in the high-tech sector, as she believes the trend is changing, but not at the pace needed for Arab graduates.

Also in this edition, author Ben Cohen claims the idea that Iran has embraced a previously hidden sense of civic responsibility alongside its newly-boosted political and military influence, promoted by US President Barack Obama, is nothing more than a delusion.

Cohen lays out his criticism of President Obama’s foreign policy, arguing that the very idea of the deal is flawed, and that, as expected, it has led to a new era of Iranian power and any restraints to that power are imposed on them by Russia, not the US.

Professor Jonathan Rynhold, of Bar Ilan University, analyses the potential implications of Britain’s exit from the EU for its relations with Israel. He explains that while the EU has not been too great a drag on UK-Israel relations, and that Britain has been a useful voice for Israel within the EU, Brexit may help strengthen the relationship further.

Azriel  Bermant,  Research  Fellow  at  the  Institute  for  National  Security Studies (INSS), argues that  the UK-Israel  relationship is more likely to flourish than deteriorate following  the EU referendum debate.

BICOM’s Senior Research Fellow Michael Herzog writes on Israel’s core security requirements in permanent-status negotiations and solutions. Herzog considers the implications of a demilitarised Palestinian state, and potential solutions for the Jordan Valley. Gershon Hacohen also analyses security strategy, discussing the priority of values and strategic direction in this context.

On the same topic, Colonel Kris Bauman, Senior Military Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), and Ilan Goldenberg, Director of the Center for New American Security (CNAS), explain their extensive research that builds on previous work in negotiations and aims to provide a starting point for further discussion and refinement, in order to resolve the security component of final status discussions between Israelis and Palestinians. Amongst other things, they outline how they are guided by the challenge of preventing the West Bank from going the way of Gaza after Israel’s withdrawal in 2005.

A piece by specialist in Critical Theory and legal philosophy Simon Gansinger offers an in depth perspective on  how anti-Zionism was used to camouflage antisemitism in the brutal destruction of Poland’s Jewish community in 1968 at the hands of the communist regime. Gansinger notes the significance of regime officials calling Jews “the fifth column”, stoking antisemitic mistrust of the tiny community by questioning their commitment to Poland in light of their Zionism.

Marlene Gallner, of the University of Vienna, analyses author Jean Améry’s “Critique of Anti-Zionism”. Améry published several essays on anti-Zionism when it spread amongst left-wing students in the 1960s, and, as Gallner notes, was a strong supporter of the State of Israel after his experience in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

Professor Alan Johnson, Editor of Fathom, said:

“Fathom 14 examines four challenges facing Israel: the challenge of creating a shared society, of creating a security system for the two-state solution, of responding to Brexit, and of understanding and combatting the historical tributaries, contemporary forms and damaging political impacts of the ideology of anti-Zionism.

“With a host of compelling pieces from both well-established figures such as Ben Cohen, Michael Herzog and Philip Spencer, and exciting new writers such as Marlene Gallner and Simon Gansinger, this edition of Fathom helps provide a deeper understanding of some of the most difficult issues facing Israel and the wider region at this time.

EXTRACTS

Interview with Rabbi Shemtov and Rebbetzin Shoshana Menachem, coordinator of the ultra-Orthodox programme at the Citizens Accord Forum (CAF) and coordinator of CAFs ultra-Orthodox women’s group.

“We sit together in a cafe, equal numbers of Arab women and Jewish women. People stare in from the street and wonder what are those people doing together? By sitting together we have already made a statement and that is our aim; to show that we love each other, we care for each other, and we try to help each other by working out our problems together.”

Extract from book review of “Ben-Gurion: His Later Years in the Political Wilderness,” by Colin Shindler

“This latest work from Avi Shilon describes in detail Ben-Gurions last decade – from stepping down as prime minister in June 1963 until his death in December 1973. They were not glorious years and were peppered by anger, bitterness, disputation and disagreement. Throughout his life, he had never bowed to convention, spoke his mind using outrageous language and harboured grudges for an eternity.”

ENDS

CONTACT

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
T: 020 7636 5500
M: 07879 644 099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

The latest edition of Fathom, and previous issues, can be read at http://fathomjournal.org/

Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region is BICOM’s quarterly online research journal.

*************************************

07 September 2016

Fatah’s rule of the Palestinian Authority at risk in a post-Abbas era

Fatah, the current ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), may lose its role as the vanguard of the Palestinian national movement if it fails to integrate its younger activists and take steps to address their grievances, according to a new report published today (Wednesday, 7th September.)

A new Strategic Assessment by the Israel and Middle East think tank BICOM, Palestinian politics after Abbas: the next Palestinian strategic direction, the second in a two-part series analysing Palestinian politics in the post-Abbas era, details how a weakened Fatah would leave a potential void that could be filled by terror group Hamas. Assuming leadership of the Palestinian national movement has been a key goal of Hamas since its founding.

The report looks into challenges and potential strategic directions for Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in a post-Abbas era. Faced with a constituency that has grown disillusioned with the promises of the Oslo process, Abbas’s successor is likely to reject the bilateral negotiation track towards establishing two states as represented by the Camp David summit in 2000, Annapolis process in 2007-2009 and Kerry talks in 2013-2014. In its stead may come the continuation of the internationalisation agenda, a sustained campaign of nonviolent resistance, or the emergence of a one-state option.

Lauren Mellinger, Research Fellow at BICOM and author of the report, said:

“What we are witnessing at the moment within Palestinian domestic politics is the end of the Abbas-era, and with that, likely the end of the rule of the ‘old guard’.

“Whoever succeeds Abbas will face a variety of strategic options and challenges. They will have to decide on how security coordination with Israel should continue, if at all, whether to double down on Abbas’ internationalisation strategy, and respond to the growing numbers of Palestinians calling for a single state in lieu of independent statehood – an increasingly popular option with younger Palestinians.”

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644099

Notes to editors

The new BICOM Strategic Assessment Palestinian politics after Abbas: the next Palestinian strategic direction can be read here.

 

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

01 September 2016

Race to succeed President Mahmoud Abbas already underway

The race to succeed the current President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is already in full swing, with possible replacements starting to come to the fore, according to a new report published today (Thursday, 1st September).

Palestinian politics after Abbas: institutional and constitutional challenges, a new Strategic Assessment by the Israel and Middle East think tank BICOM, shows that although President Mahmoud Abbas remains in power, determinedly hanging on after 11 years at the top of Palestinian politics, potential future leaders from within Fatah and beyond are beginning to emerge – despite it being unlikely that Abbas will name a deputy or relinquish power in the near future.

Palestinian political institutions are already in decline, languishing since Hamas expelled Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007. With a variety of names already competing to succeed Abbas, there is the risk that, in a post-Abbas scenario, a drawn out race could potentially result in the collapse of the PA and seriously destabilise the West Bank. Many young Fatah activists continue to see no path for political advancement outside of the Fatah movement, according to the report, but to what extent Abbas’s successor will succumb to pressure from the public to end the Oslo process – security coordination with Israel in particular – with serious implications for stability in the area, remains an open question. This risk of further destabilisation is already causing increasing concern to Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

The report also assesses the process of succession and those tipped to replace Abbas, finding that the conditions strongly favour a candidate emerging from Fatah without elections, and that whoever emerges will either be popular at home or liked by the international community, but not both.

Potential successors to Abbas include Palestinian Liberal Organisation (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat, who is thought by some to be Abbas’s preferred choice.

The exiled former Head of the Palestinian security service in Gaza Mohammad Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti, who retains popular support despite currently being in prison in Israel, are also considered to be in the running, as are Abbas loyalist Majed Faraj, and former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Former PA PM Ahmed Qurei, former Chief of Palestinian Preventive Security Jibril Rajoub, and current PA PM Rami Hamdallah, are also potential candidates.

Lauren Mellinger, Research Fellow at BICOM and author of the report, said:

“President Abbas is now 11 years into what was supposed to be a four-year term. With no progress in peace negotiations, no independent state, and increasing frustration amongst Palestinians towards what they consider a highly corrupt PA, the Palestinian succession battle is already underway.

“While predicting Abbas’s successor remains largely an open question, one thing is clear: those who assume the leadership of the PA, PLO, and Fatah will face the difficult task of leading a people who have become increasingly disillusioned with the Oslo process, and with the failure of their own leaders to deliver a Palestinian state. At the same time they have to manage the demands of the international community that the Israelis and Palestinians continue to work towards a peace deal.”

Other key points:

  • Amid the succession crisis, Fatah is subject to internal crises leading many Palestinians to question its legitimacy;
  • The absence of internal elections and failure to address the growing generational divide threatens the party’s future as a leader of the Palestinian national movement;
  • The end of the Abbas-era likely marks the end of the rule of the old guard, “Tunis-based” political leadership – giving way to the “young guard” comprised of those who spent the majority of their lives in the West Bank and Gaza and established their credibility by participating in the intifadas and serving time in Israeli prisons.

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644099

Notes to editors

The Strategic Assessment Palestinian politics after Abbas: institutional and constitutional challenges can be read here.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

 

*************************************

08 August 2016

BICOM reacts to more revelations of extreme anti-Israel rhetoric at the top of the Labour Party.

“Revelations that Labour Party shadow cabinet members have made comparisons between Israel and ISIS come as no surprise, given the party’s own inquiry into antisemitism failed to recognise the dangerous, systematic demonisation of Israel by some activists and within the leadership of Labour. When Labour’s own leader, Jeremy Corbyn, calls anti-Israel extremist Sami Ramadani a ‘very great friend’, it naturally becomes harder to stamp out this sort of rhetoric from the party.

“Some of the comments made by Labour MPs about Israel and Zionists show a fundamental misunderstanding of what Zionism is. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. It is a movement driven by a desire for the Jewish people to live in an independent state, to shape their own destiny free from centuries of horrific persecution.

“Criticising the Government of Israel is of course entirely legitimate as it is for any Government. But if you portray the existence of Israel as a crime and indulge dangerous fantasies about the country no longer existing, that is antisemitic and deeply offensive. There is a constructive debate in the UK about how to reach a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the UK of which we are part, and this is not it.”

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
07879 644099
charlotte@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

15 July 2016

The Iran nuclear deal one year on

A year has passed since the Iran deal was signed as a way of curbing Iranian nuclear ambitions that threatened its neighbours and reduced the chances of stability in the region. BICOM, the Israel and Middle East think tank, has released a new Strategic Assessment that outlines how the deal is being implemented, its impact on Iran’s foreign and domestic policy, and the consequences for Israel.

Key points of the report:

  • While the deal is largely being implemented – temporarily pushing Iran back from the nuclear threshold – loopholes, monitoring gaps, and missile testing validate concerns that Iran retains the ambition to pursue nuclear weapons capability when restrictions expire in 10-15 years.
  • Iran appears emboldened by the deal in promoting its sectarian regional agenda, fuelling conflict in various theatres.
  • The last year leaves doubts about the Western commitment to confront Iran and endanger the deal.
  • The deal has reinforced concerns of Sunni Arab states, contributing to heightened tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, and increased Saudi arms spending.
  • Despite popular support in Iran for pragmatic-conservatives represented by President Rouhani, hardliners continue to dominate the system.
  • Iran has received an economic boost from the lifting of sanctions, but is frustrated by the continuing reluctance of foreign firms to do business with it.
  • Israel is using the hiatus in Iranian nuclear development to prepare militarily and diplomatically for a future with Iran on the nuclear threshold, including warmer relations with Sunni Arab states.

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry
Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
charlotte@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors:

Download BICOM’s Strategic Assessment Iran one year on from the sanctions here.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

12 July 2016

Hezbollah war worst scenario for Israel

Ten years ago, Israel fought the terrorist group Hezbollah in the Second Lebanon War. A new strategic assessment from Israel and the Middle East think tank BICOM outlines that, a decade on, Hezbollah is continuing to rearm and another war with Hezbollah is the biggest military threat to Israel.

Key points of the report:

  • On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, a future war with Hezbollah is considered the most threatening scenario for the IDF due to the organisation’s significant military capability.
  • In light of the failure of an ‘enhanced’ UN force to prevent Hezbollah rearming, Israel is sceptical of relying on international forces to defend its borders, a policy that has consequences for the security component of negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian state.
  • The IDF’s new security doctrine reflects a focus on non-state actors and asymmetric warfare, and establishes new military and strategic approaches as well as redefined standards of what victory means.
  • Israel’s political leadership has failed to fully implement recommendations for improving the national security decision-making

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry
Senior Press Officer
020 3745 3348
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors:

BICOM Strategic Assessment: The Second Lebanon War can be downloaded here.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

04 July 2016

BICOM statement on Tzipi Livni incident

James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said:

“This incident reveals an urgent need to clarify the muddle that is Universal Jurisdiction laws. These powers should be deployed properly and precisely to bring war criminals to justice, they must never be misused as show tactics for political campaigners and brought into disrepute.

“The Metropolitan Police need to explain why they departed from established protocol. The Home Office and the FCO should now work together on new guidance to police to ensure that the correct procedures are followed and this kind of incident is avoided in future.’

ENDS

Contact

Thais Portilho, Head of Communications
020 3745 3348
07879 644099
thaisp@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

30 June 2016

BICOM responds to the Chakrabarti Inquiry

Responding to the release of Shami Chakrabarti’s report into antisemitism in the Labour Party, BICOM CEO James Sorene said:

“We regret that the inquiry has failed to recognise the dangerous, systematic demonisation of Israel by those Labour Party members who cross the line into antisemitism and attempt to disguise it as anti-Zionism. There are sadly no recommendations for new measures to allow them to be removed as members and the inquiry effectively offers an amnesty, which it calls a moratorium, to those who have used antisemitic language in the past.

“The report is vague and indecisive on action against members who indulge in antisemitic anti-Zionism, and dismisses a culture of systematic demonisation of Israel as a ‘series of unhappy incidents’.

“If you portray the existence of Israel as a crime and indulge dangerous fantasies about the country no longer existing, that that is antisemitic and deeply offensive. There is a constructive debate in the UK about how to reach a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the UK of which we are part, and this is not it.

“Criticising the Government of Israel is of course entirely legitimate as it is for any Government. But when that criticism is expressed in violent language, directed at its people in racist terms or uses references to Hitler and Nazism, it is antisemitic and deeply offensive. As such we are encouraged that the inquiry recommends references to Hitler and Nazism should be resisted in this context.

“We acknowledge recommendations that the use of antisemitic language by some Labour Party members towards Jews, namely the word ‘Zio’ is ugly and hurtful and hope that, as and when they are implemented, students supporting Zionism involved in Labour societies in universities across the country will feel emboldened to publicly express their views without being bullied or harassed.”

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry
Senior Press Office
020 3745 3348
charlotte@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors:

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

29 June 2016

New agreement between Israel and Turkey set to improve conditions in the Gaza Strip

The newly signed agreement between Israel and Turkey marks a significant change in the role played by Turkey in the Gaza Strip, where they now plan to build a hospital, a power plant and desalination facility.

Middle East think tank BICOM has today published a strategic assessment of the Israel-Turkey reconciliation deal, agreed today by Israel’s Security Cabinet, and the compromises made on both sides in order to come to an agreement. These compromises include Turkey withdrawing its demands related to access to Gaza and Israel agreeing to facilitate the delivery of Turkish aid to Gaza. Turkey also agreed to stop Hamas using the country as a base from which to plan and implement terror attacks on Israel.

Today’s deal signifies a reset in relations between Israel and a leading Sunni Muslim state after relations collapsed in the aftermath of the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara, a ship that was part of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip in May 2010.

The briefing also outlines that:

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the agreement as part of an Israeli strategy to “create centres of stability in the stormy Middle East”
  • The two countries will resume military and intelligence cooperation
  • Turkey has ended its veto which prevented Israel upgrading its ties with NATO, with Israel having opened a permanent mission at its Brussels headquarters at the end of May
  • Building on already strong tourism ties, and the doubling of trade between the two countries from 2010 to 2015, the deal will give Turkey the opportunity to diversify its energy supply after the announcement of a gas pipeline to Israel

BICOM CEO, James Sorene, said: “Today’s deal is a hugely significant diplomatic breakthrough for both the Israeli and Turkish Government. Closer relations now mean progress can be made on many issues. It opens the door to a deeper Israeli engagement with NATO and provides a route for Israel and Hamas to deescalate tensions in times of crisis. Turkey’s commitment to provide more aid to Gaza will also provide welcome assistance to an area long neglected by the region and the international community.”

ENDS

Contact

Charlotte Henry
Senior Press Office
020 3745 3348
charlotte@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors:

BICOM Strategic Assessment: Israeli-Turkish Reconciliation can be downloaded here.

BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, is an independent British think tank producing research and analysis to increase understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

28 April 2016

BICOM’s statement on antisemitic anti-Zionism in the Labour Party

James Sorene, BICOM CEO said:

“Recent comments about Israel and Zionists by members of the Labour party, and the way some have defended them, show a fundamental misunderstanding of what Zionism is. Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. It is a movement driven by a desire for the Jewish people to live in an independent state, to shape their own destiny free from centuries of horrific persecution.

“Anti-Zionists deny the Jewish people their right to national self-determination, seek to portray the very existence of Israel as a crime and indulge dangerous fantasies about the country no longer existing. Criticism of the Israeli government is of course entirely legitimate, as it is against any government. But when that criticism is expressed in violent language, directed at its people in racist terms or uses references to Hitler and Nazism, it is antisemitic and deeply offensive. If the only country in the world that you want to disappear is the Jewish one then you are in very bad company, on the wrong side of history.”

ENDS

For further information and interview requests please contact:

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
T: 0207 636 5500
M: 07796043925
Out of hours: 07879 644099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

BICOM is an independent British research centre producing analysis, insight and commentary to promote a greater understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

6 April 2016

Hezbollah using Syrian conflict to prepare for war against Israel, according to new BICOM research

According to the paper Hezbollah in 2016: damaged goods or dangerous war machine? published today, Lebanese armed, radical militia Hezbollah is already in possession of between 100,000 and 150,000 missiles, many of which are hidden amongst the civilian population of South Lebanon.

The research shows Hezbollah continues to take advantage of the civil war in Syria, a key conduit for arms from Iran, in an attempt to improve its military capacity for a future conflict with Israel.

The radical group entered the Syrian civil war with the aim of maintaining Assad’s regime and creating a “state within a state in Syria” as an insurance policy to protect Iranian interests, in case the regime were to fall. Hezbollah fighters were also directly involved in combat operations in key battlefields, as well as the siege of Madaya, where a reported 40,000 Syrians have been struggling for food.

While Hezbollah is looking to avoid an all-out conflict with Israel for now, it already has a sophisticated military capability that poses serious policy problems for the country it describes as a “cancerous Zionist enemy”. It has recently threatened to strike cities and strategic sites throughout Israel, including an ammonia factory in Haifa, offshore gas fields, and Ben Gurion Airport.

James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said: “Hezbollah have been patiently growing their military capability with the purpose of intimidating and threatening Israel, the country it wants to see removed from the map. It continues to try and establish military infrastructure on the Golan and to improve its already significant rocket arsenal, a strategy that the current Syrian ceasefire is unlikely to alter. An all-out Israel-Hezbollah conflict, although unlikely for the time being, would have devastating consequences for Israel and Lebanon.”

Other key points:

  • In March 2016, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) formally categorised Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, describing it as a “militia” and arguing that “Hezbollah’s incitement and terrorist acts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq are contrary to morality and human values”.
  • Hezbollah’s military wing was designated as a terrorist group by the UK in 2008, and by the European Union in 2013.
  • Hezbollah decision to become heavily involved in the Syrian civil war alongside the Assad regime has further polarised an already fractured domestic political arena in Lebanon, as well as generated retaliatory attacks against Hezbollah from within the country.
  • A future war between Israel and Hezbollah would likely be devastating. Thousands of Hezbollah missiles have a range and accuracy to strike cities and strategic sites throughout Israel.
  • In February 2016, Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack Israel’s ammonia factory in Haifa, warning that the damage caused would be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb.

ENDS

CONTACT

Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer
T: 0207 636 5500
M: 07796043925
Out of hours: 07879 644099
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

Hezbollah in 2016: damaged goods or dangerous war machine? can be downloaded here http://www.bicom.org.uk/analysis-article/29101/

BICOM is an independent British research centre producing analysis, insight and commentary to promote a greater understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

*************************************

24 March 2016

BICOM’s statement in response to the incident in Hebron earlier today

“The alleged shooting of an injured terror suspect in Hebron by an Israel Defence Forces soldier, as seen in a video recorded at the scene, is unacceptable and falls dramatically short of the high standards expected from and routinely displayed by the Israel Defence Forces. It is fitting that all soldiers at the scene are currently being investigated by the Military Police, the Chief of Staff has ordered a thorough investigation, and the Minister of Defence and Prime Minister have swiftly condemned the incident in the strongest terms.

“This incident, coupled with the relentless terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, police and soldiers since October last year, only serves to highlight the need for all parties to work together to de-escalate tensions and start a fresh dialogue that will hopefully lead to the peaceful establishment of two states for two peoples.”

ENDS

CONTACT

Thais Portilho, Head of Communications
T: 020 7636 5500
M: 07879644099
thaisp@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors:

BICOM is an independent British research centre producing analysis, insight and commentary to promote a greater understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.

 

*************************************

15 March 2016

Statement in response to the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria

James Sorene, BICOM CEO, said:

“This is an unexpected move that shakes up an already dangerous and complex situation but weakens the Assad regime, which was reliant on Russian air superiority.  It is an indication that Russia believes that gains so far can be now locked in for the foreseeable future and that the regime will survive.

“Russia’s departure will strengthen Iran’s grip on Syria and Lebanon, which is of great concern for the wider region. Israel had developed a functional relationship with Russia during its military involvement in Syria and Russia represented a ‘moderating’ influence on Iranian-Hezbollah ambitions. Russia’s withdrawal will create a vacuum that may be filled by Iranian or Hezbollah troops, strengthening their foothold in the country. It will likely allow the Iranian led axis to transfer sophisticated game-changing weapons to Hezbollah and establish an operational foothold on the Golan – both red lines for Israel.

“There were concerns from Israel that Hezbollah’s proximity to Russian military forces would ultimately enhance the group’s development of a more offensive-minded strategy, with significant implications for the planning and conduct of any future conflicts against Israel. Russia’s withdrawal seems to have diminished this threat and will also likely grant Israel greater military freedom of action to protect its interests in Syria.”

CONTACT
Charlotte Henry, Senior Press Officer

T: 020 7636 5500
M: 07796043925
charlotteh@bicom.org.uk

Notes to editors:

BICOM is an independent British research centre producing analysis, insight and commentary to promote a greater understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK.