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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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, Simon Gansinger, and Sapan Maini-Thompson, 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 “Othering Zionism: the theoretical affinities of the Islamists and the New Left,” by Sapan Maini-Thompson

“In his 1970 publication Islamic Government, Khomeini identified Zionism as a doctrine of domination and supremacy and Zionists as agents of [Western] imperialism, bent upon destroying the ideals of the Muslims. In contrast to the New Leftist paradigm of settler-colonialism, Khomeini purveyed a conspiratorial notion of metropole colonialism suggesting that Israel’s creation at the hand of the great powers was evidence of an incipient imperial project in the Middle East.”

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.