BESA’s Top Ten of 2017

By January 16, 2018

These are the ten most widely read articles published by the BESA Center in 2017. The selections reflect strong reader interest in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israeli national security. 

10. How Palestine “Occupies” Itself

Dr. Asaf Romirowsky debunks the “Occupation” myth, used by the Palestinians to justify their endemic recalcitrance and failure to move toward statehood. He argues that as long as Palestinians remain wallowed in self-pity and shun self-awareness, self-criticism, and a real sense of accountability Palestine will remain “occupied” by shadows of its own making.

9. Gaza’s Humanitarian Crisis Is Fake News

Rejecting the widespread perception of Gaza as wallowing in poverty and forever on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, Prof. Hillel Frisch shows that indicators such as life expectancy, growth in imports, and electricity demand suggest that the Gazan standard of living is rising, not declining. If a genuine humanitarian crisis were to be avoided, the world community should join forces with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and by now most of the Gaza inhabitants to force Hamas to dismantle its military infrastructure and spend its money on human welfare rather than terrorism.

8. The Farhoud Remembered

Dr. Edy Cohen laments the fact that seventy-six years after the mass massacre of the Baghdad Jews, in which the then-leader of the Palestinian Arabs, Hajj Amin Husseini, was deeply involved, his heirs to the Palestinian leadership still sustain an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish campaign of racial and political incitement unparalleled in scope and intensity since Nazi Germany.

7. Palestinian Settler-Colonialism

Dr. Alex Joffe argues that the pejorative of “settler colonialism” should be applied to the Palestinians rather than to Israelis. For while the millenarian Jewish connection to Palestine can be proven with ease, the Muslim conquest of Byzantine Palestine in the 7th century CE is a textbook example of settler-colonialism, as are subsequent Arab migration waves, particularly during the 19th and 20th centuries under the Ottoman and British Empires. The application of the concept to Jews and Zionism by Palestinians is both ironic and unhelpful.

6. With Iran on its doorstep, Israel quietly Readies game-Changing Air Power

Yaakov Lappin argues that as Iran seeks to create a military outpost in Syria from which it could threaten and attack Israel in the future, Israel has developed formidable aerial strike capabilities that are likely to prove decisive to the outcome of any military action taken against Iran in Syria.

5. Israel’s Possible Path to Nuclear War

North Korea’s nuclearization has implications for Israel’s nuclear deterrence posture, argues Prof. Louis René Beres, since the same questions that now surround Kim Jong un could soon pertain to Iran’s decision-making elite. It may be time to consider a phase-out of Israel’s “deliberate nuclear ambiguity” and to focus Israeli planning around evaluations of enemy rationality.

4. The Desperate Saudi Bid to Prepare the State for All-Out War

According to Prof. Hillel Frisch, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s ambitious reforms constitute a tacit admission of the failure of Saudi soft power and the attendant recognition of the need to transform the kingdom into a war machine if it is to survive the Iranian onslaught. The question is whether he will be able to avoid the fate of the Shah, who transformed Iran into a regional power but fell victim to wall-to-wall opposition bred by his concentration of power.

3. The Over-Dramatization of Israel’s “Dilemma”

Dr. Max Singer challenges the standard cliché about Israel’s need for painful territorial concessions because the Palestinians will not agree to take land and cannot be forced to do so. Not only do the Palestinians view peace with Israel as defeat in their 100-year struggle, but Israel’s continued presence in parts of the West Bank is one of their best weapons against Israel and they will not give it up while their war to destroy Israel continues. Israelis should therefore reconcile themselves to the need to go forward with no solution in sight.

2. Ehud Barak: Blatantly Ignoring Danger

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen argues that former PM Ehud Barak’s advocacy of withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders undercuts Israel’s security and runs counter to Yitzhak Rabin’s security vision. Barak’s premise that the future Palestinian state will be demilitarized is totally detached from reality, as evidenced by the unabated arms smuggling to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon; his belief that Israel’s military superiority would allow it to swiftly reoccupy the Palestinian state should the need arise ignores the military-strategic changes that have washed over the region during the past fifty years thus making the Six-Day War a one-time event, with unique circumstances that will not be seen again.

1. Myth: Israel is the Largest Beneficiary of US Military Aid

Debunking the standard perception of Israel as the largest recipient of US military aid, Prof. Hillel Frisch shows that this direct military aid is meaningless in comparison to the cost of maintaining troops US abroad, let alone the wars waged in defense of US allies. In reality, Israel receives only a small fraction of American military aid, and most of that is spent in the US to the benefit of the American economy: Japan’s US military aid package is nine times larger than that of Israel, Germany’s is seven times larger, and Italy’s is twice as large. Even the Lilliputian Gulf states, Kuwait and Bahrain, whose American bases are home to over 5,000 US military personnel apiece, receive military aid almost equal to what Israel receives.