Let’s make a deal

Prime Minister Maliki last night accused the Fuad Masum, elected President of Iraq on July 24, of violating the constitution, which reads:

The President of the Republic shall charge the nominee of the largest Council of Representatives bloc with the formation of the Council of Ministers within fifteen days from the date of the election of the President of the Republic.
Maliki, whose State of Law coalition won the largest bloc in parliament in April,  then beefed up the security forces in Baghdad, in an apparent “autocoup” to prevent anyone from trying to remove him from office.
Despite the apparent contradiction, the State Department is backing President Masum as the guardian of the constitution, even though he has failed to give anyone a mandate within the specified 15 days. The Americans want Maliki to step aside, as they believe he will not be able to form the kind of inclusive government they think is needed to fight off the Islamic State.
The problem is that no one other than Maliki has appeared on the horizon with a larger bloc in the Council of Representatives. A substantial majority of the parliament–including Shia as well as Sunnis and Kurds–appears to want someone other than Maliki, but they haven’t been able to agree on who it will be.
In the first instance, this is an issue for the Shia political parties to decide. Ammar al Hakim and Moqtada al Sadr, the leading lights of the Shia community, have not agreed a joint candidate, who could then command a larger bloc parliament than Maliki. The Iraqi constitutional court decided in 2010 that such a post-election coalition should be given first dibs, as is the case for example in the UK. Maliki will find it hard to argue against a post-election majority coalition if it emerges, since he formed one last time around (and the constitutional court blessed it).
In the meanwhile, the Islamic State (IS) and Kurdish forces are battling in the north, with the Americans managing some well-targeted bombing that has enabled at least some Yezidis to escape from Sinjar Mountain and the Kurdish peshmerga to slow or even reverse the IS advance on Erbil.
But a few well-placed bombs are no substitute for forming an inclusive and legitimate government in Baghdad. That is looking even more difficult today than it has the last few days.  None of the candidates the Washington Post considered five weeks ago looks promising:  many are Maliki’s sidekicks, others are anathema to Sunnis or Kurds, and others are acceptable to Hakim but not Sadr or vice versa.
This is a mess. It is likely the reason President Obama looked so grim the other night announcing his intention to authorize air drops and strikes in northern Iraq. He knows there is no reason to believe that the political crisis in Baghdad can be resolved quickly or easily. He is explicitly anticipating months of American military strikes, though even that won’t be sufficient if no agreement is reached on who will be prime minister.
It is a mistake to expect whoever emerges to be a miracle worker. It may even be one of Maliki’s minions, as his votes in parliament will remain vital. What is needed is not the magical non-sectarian who represents all the people of Iraq but rather someone who can make a deal and keep it. Maliki made many deals, but he followed through on few of them. Now no one trusts him, for good reason.
The shape of the deal is all too clear:
  • the Kurds need to get assurances that the money they are entitled to get from Baghdad and the oil they want to export will flow unimpeded;
  • the Sunnis need more autonomy for the provinces in which they are a majority, along with the resources needed to deliver services to their citizens;
  • the Shia need a central government in Baghdad that can protect them (and everyone else) from the Islamic State.

This is not a tall order, but it is also not a magic potion. Once a new government is formed, it will be months, if not a year or more, before the Iraqi security forces can fight IS effectively. In the meanwhile, expect the Americans to continue bombing as well as supplying intelligence, logistics and materiel.

PS: Shia parties today apparently nominated a Maliki sidekick, Haider al Abadi, to lead the next government, but Maliki is not giving in, yet.

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Peace picks August 11-15

1. Teleconference: Gaza Conflict Resumes After Ceasefire Ends Monday, August 11 | 10:00 am – 11:00 am Wilson Center Teleconference, Toll-free Conference Line: 888-947-9018, Conference Line: 517-308-9006, Passcode: 13304. REGISTER TO ATTEND The breakdown in the 72-hour Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and the resumption of the conflict between Israel and Hamas threatens to take the Gaza crisis to a new level. What are the prospects for escalation and/or for negotiations to de-escalate the situation? Can the requirements of the parties somehow be reconciled? What is the role of the Palestinian Authority and Egypt going forward? And what is the American role? Join the Wilson Center BY PHONE as two veteran analysts of Israeli-Palestinian politics and security strategy discuss these and other issues. SPEAKERS: Jane Harman, President, Wilson Center, Giora Eiland, Former Head of Israel’s National Security Counci, Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and Aaron David Miller, Vice President for New Initiatives and Distinguished Scholar, Wilson Center.

2. Laying the BRICS of a New Global Order: From Yekaterinburg 2009 to eThekwini 2013 Tuesday, August 12 | 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Woodrow Wilson Center; 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The meteoric rise of the BRICS group has led to an unprecedented increase in partnership, trade, and investment among some of the world’s most dynamic economies. Yet this increase in cooperation should not be allowed to obscure the complexities and contradictions inherent within this cohort of emerging global actors. The Africa Program invites you to the launch of “Laying the BRICS of a New Global Order,” a book edited by Francis Kornegay, Global Fellow, Wilson Center, with contributions from Paulo Sotero, Director, Brazil Institute as this seminal compilation on the emergence of a new global order is discussed.

3. South China Seas Crisis Negotiation Simulation Tuesday, August 12 | 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm Johns Hopkins SAIS – Bernstein-Offit Building, 1717 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C., Room 500 REGISTER TO ATTEND The International Peace and Security Institute will host an interactive simulation exploring the South China Seas Crisis.

4. Holy Icons of Medieval Russia: Reawakening to a Spiritual Past Tuesday, August 12 | 6:45 pm – 8:15 pm Smithsonian Institute, at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive, SW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Scott Ruby, associate curator of Russian and Eastern European art at Hillwood Museum, examines how the appreciation and understanding of medieval icons developed, as well as some of the aspects of medieval iconography that differentiate it from the work of later centuries. Focusing on the great treasures of the period, Ruby looks at some of the superlative icons of Andre Rublev, a Russian monk who some consider the greatest icon painter. He also discusses how icons function in the context of public and private devotions.

5. Taiwan’s Maritime Security Wednesday, August 13 | 10:30 pm – 12:00 pm Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Taiwan’s security is inextricably linked to the sea. Indeed, the nation’s economic livelihood, as well as its national security, requires that Taipei secure the surrounding waters and have access to global sea-lanes. The Taiwan Strait is a key international waterway, and preserving its stability is in the American interest. Furthermore, per the Taiwan Relations Act, America is legally obligated to help this democratic island provide for its maritime security. Join Heritage as their panelists discuss how Taiwan’s maritime security issues are linked with the continuing East China Sea/South China Sea territorial and political disputes, Chinese naval developments, and U.S. Navy strategy in the Pacific. SPEAKERS: Bernard Cole, Ph.D., Captain, USN (Ret.), and Professor, National War College, Dean Cheng, Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, and Cortez Cooper, Senior International Policy Analyst, RAND

6. Africa Development Forum Event: A New Strategy for Civil Society Development for Africa Wednesday, August 13 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Center for International Private Enterprise, 1155 15th Street NW, 7th Floor, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND A number of challenges face civil society organizations in developing markets in general and in Africa in particular. Now, however, strategies are emerging to address some of these issues. As part of SID-Washington’s Africa Development Forum, the Civil Society Workgroup will host a panel discussion entitled A New Strategy for Civil Society Development for Africa to examine these new approaches to civil society capacity building and how they should influence development strategies in how to engage and support CSOs. SPEAKERS: Lars Benson, Senior Program Officer for Africa, Center for International Private Enterprise, Jeremy Meadows, Senior Democracy Specialist, Bureau for Africa, USAID, Natalie Ross, Program Officer, Aga Khan Foundation, USA and Richard O’Sullivan (moderator), SID-Washington Civil Society Workgroup co-chair.

7. Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War Wednesday, August 13 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Middle East Institute, 1761 N Street, NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The Middle East Institute hosts Christine Fair, assistant professor of peace and security studies at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, for a discussion of her book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (Oxford University Press, 2014). Based on an unprecedented analysis of decades’ worth of the Pakistan army’s defense publications, Fair concludes that the army’s perception is that its success depends on its resistance to India’s purported drive for regional hegemony and the territorial status quo. Fair argues that because the army is unlikely to abandon these preferences, Pakistan will remain a destabilizing force in world politics for the foreseeable future. Hosted by Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, President, Middle East Institute.

8. U.S.-Korea-Japan Triangle: A Korean Perspective Wednesday, August 13| 10:00 am – 12:45 pm Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC REGISTER TO ATTEND Please join CSIS for a special roundtable event with Dr. Park Jin, Chair Professor at the Graduate School of International and Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, to discuss issues in the U.S.-Korea-Japan relationship and South Korean view toward the trilateral cooperation.

9. Inside the World of Diplomacy Thursday, August 14 | 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Smithsonian Institute, at the American Foreign Service Association, 2101 E St NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Members of the U.S. Foreign Service are the face of America in countries around the globe. From ambassadors to embassy staffers, their post s are demanding, important, and often difficult ones. How does someone enter the world of diplomacy—and what do they find there? Take a rare opportunity to get answers from men and women whose careers are spent in diplomatic Washington as you go inside the American Foreign Service Association and the U.S. Department of State.

10. Preventing Violence in the Name of God: The Role of Religion in Diplomacy Thursday, August 14 | 10:00 am – 11:30 am Middle East Institute at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND In his remarks at the launch of the State Department’s Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives, Secretary of State John Kerry admonished, “We ignore the global impact of religion…at our peril,” and told Foreign Service officers “to go out and engage religious leaders and faith-based communities in our day-to-day work.” At a time when religious violence inflames much of the Middle East, the question of how diplomacy and religion can interact takes on high operational importance. What is the Department of State doing to fulfill Secretary Kerry’s instructions? What are the scope and limits of cooperation? These are among the questions to be addressed in presentations by Jerry White (Conflict and Stability Operations, Department of State) and Arsalan Suleman (Organization for the Islamic Conference, Department of State), followed by comments from Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering (former Undersecretary of State). MEI Scholar and retired Foreign Service officer Allen Keiswetter will moderate the panel.

11. Which Poses the Bigger Threat to U.S. National Security—Iran or Non-State Sunni Extremism? Thursday, August 14 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Hudson Institute, 1015 15th Street, N.W. 6th Floor, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The Administration’s current policies throughout the region suggest that the White House no longer sees Iran as the key problem. Rather, it views the clerical regime as a potential partner, particularly when it comes to combating Sunni extremists like al Qaeda and ISIS. The Iranian regime, while problematic, represents a real nation-state and rational actor that looks out for its interests and responds to incentives—which is not the case for non-state actors. The White House has re-prioritized American strategy in the Middle East, with groups like al Qaeda and ISIS—rather than Iran—seen as the key threat to American interests. The question is whether the Obama administration has got it right. And if it’s wrong, what are the likely consequences? Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Lee Smith will moderate an expert panel featuring Michael Doran, Hillel Fradkin, and Brian Katulis to discuss whether non-state Sunni extremism or Iran constitutes the major strategic threat to American interests in the region.

12. They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else: A History of the Armenian Genocide Thursday, August 14, 2014 | 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Starting in early 1915, the Ottoman Turks began deporting and killing hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the first major genocide of the twentieth century. By the end of the First World War, the number of Armenians in what would become Turkey had been reduced by ninety percent—more than a million people. A century later, the Armenian Genocide remains controversial but relatively unknown, overshadowed by later slaughters and the chasm separating Turkish and Armenian versions of events. In this definitive narrative history, Professor Ronald Suny cuts through nationalist myths, propaganda, and denial to provide an unmatched account of when, how, and why the atrocities of 1915–1916 were committed.Drawing on archival documents and eyewitness accounts, Professor Suny’s book is a vivid and unforgettable chronicle of a cataclysm that set a tragic pattern for a century of genocide and crimes against humanity.

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The anti-ISIS fire brigade

I’m an Obamista–I campaigned for him and continue to support him.  I even sympathize with his much-criticized reluctance to engage abroad. The United States needs a respite. We are a weary world policeman. Our most recent interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated our limitations more than our capacities.

But even while taking a break from our law and order role, we need to be prepared to lead the fire brigade. Uncontained fires that break out abroad can cause us serious damage here at home. The war in Syria, which the President initially viewed as one not directly affecting American national security, always had the potential to do so, by creating a safe haven for terrorists and by spilling over to neighboring countries.

Now both threats have become real. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has carved out a substantial area of control in both countries. While the challenges of governing may prevent ISIS from threatening the United States in the near future, the supposed caliphate it has established clearly intends to do so. Its threat to fly its black flag over the White House is bombast, but if it gains and consolidates a safe haven in Iraq and Syria ISIS will want to strike the United States. It would be delusional to think otherwise.

The President has chosen to act against ISIS, but in strictly limited ways. He is using American air power to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to threatened civilians as well as to prevent an advance on Iraqi Kurdistan, whose vaunted peshmerga have found it difficult to defend their long confrontation line with ISIS.  The US is also providing advice and intelligence to both Kurdistan and Iraqi security forces, which performed miserably when ISIS advanced against Mosul and moved towards Baghdad.

The United States needs to do more. It needs to lead a fire brigade committed to containing and eventually defeating ISIS.

This should not be a US-only effort. ISIS threatens Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia more immediately than it threatens the US. But these are not countries that are used to cooperating with each other. Only Turkey has a habit of projecting military force into neighboring countries. But Turkey and Saudi Arabia are at odds over the role of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East, Lebanon is preoccupied with its internal difficulties, and Jordan is overwhelmed with Syrian refugees.

The main ground forces available to meet the ISIS threat are Iraqis and Syrians.

The Iraqi Kurds need help:  air power, logistics and intelligence. For the moment, the Americans are providing all three. But there is no reason why Turkey can’t provide at least some of the air power and logistics to help Kurdistan. Turkey’s long border with Kurdish-controlled territory and the immediacy of the ISIS threat would enable it to intervene from the air and supply the Kurds with whatever materiel they may need. Perhaps Qatar might help from the air as well.  It participated in the NATO-led operation against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya and it shares Turkey’s affection for the Muslim Brotherhood, making it a natural ally.

The Iraqi security forces also need help. They are getting intelligence and some supplies. But President Obama wants Baghdad to form an inclusive government before he commits fully. Nouri al Maliki is still refusing to step down, despite strong hints from Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the Iranians that he should do so.  He is an extraordinarily stubborn man, and he has the largest block in parliament as well as a lot of personal preference votes in the April election to back his claim to the prime ministry. There are rumors that he is negotiating for a large security detail and immunity. It would be foolish not to give him both under current circumstances, if doing so will accelerate the process of forming a more inclusive government.

Simply changing the prime minister may not solve the problem. Iraq needs a new political compact that will give

  1. the Kurds  money they are owed as well as some capacity to export their own oil and receive the proceeds from its sale;
  2. the Sunnis more power in Baghdad as well as control over their own destiny in the Sunni-dominated provinces and the money to realize their ambitions.

In exchange, the Kurds should be expected to commit to staying in Iraq and fighting ISIS while the Sunnis and their foreign supporters Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should be expected to turn against ISIS and help defeat it.

Nailing together a pact of this sort in peacetime would be difficult. It may be easier in wartime, as the consequences of failure are all too clear.

ISIS will be easier to defeat in Iraq if it is also attacked in Syria. Bashar al Asad cannot be expected to do that in any but a perfunctory way. It serves his purposes well to have an extremist threat that he can blame for the uprising against his rule. It also conveniently fights against more moderate opposition forces. The Syrian opposition needs more and better weapons and training in order to attack ISIS. It also needs help from the Syrian Kurds, who can attack from ISIS’ rear and have proven effective against ISIS at times in the past.

So the anti-ISIS fire brigade looks something like this:

  • Kurds in the north and east supported by Turkey and Qatar in addition to the US,
  • Iraqi army in the south and Syrian opposition (including Kurds) in the west supported by the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Putting that 360° coalition together is today’s challenge for American diplomacy.

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Escalating tug of war

Ukraine has found itself in the middle of an escalating tug of war. Russia is on one side, while the EU and the US are on the other. It has been tugged in both directions over the past several months.  Last Tuesday, the Atlantic Council hosted Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, to discuss the escalating tensions and the necessary responses both within the country and with the international community. Klimkin discussed the necessity for a transparent and sustainable approach in order to ultimately achieve EU membership.

Klimkin said that Ukraine strives to be a united and democratic country within Europe. While there is currently great turmoil, he believes that the country wants to embrace political and economic freedoms and return to normal life. The government should therefore work to strengthen policy, the national economy, and security arrangements in order to stay true to its political commitments and eventually gain EU membership.

The three main components the country should focus on include de-escalation on the ground, humanitarian aid, and the restoration of infrastructure. According to Klimkin, there will need to be further military assistance in order to subdue the violence in Eastern Ukraine, as well as to establish a bilateral ceasefire as soon as possible. The government will then need support for the judicial system and the reestablishment of the rule of law as a means to deter future aggression.

It will also need to focus on full implementation of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. Flexibility will be required to transform Ukraine’s legislation and effectively carry out trade with the neighboring EU market. Real solidarity within the country will be needed in order to reform and move towards European integration.

Klimkin stressed the commitment of the international community to Ukraine and its independence. It unfortunately took the tragic case of the MH17 flight to attract significant attention on a global scale. The crash was a game changer for those who did not understand the capability of the terrorists and the role of Russia. Now Ukraine is dedicated to a transparent investigation and full access to the crash site. It has been able to set up an international team with Dutch representatives and partners from the US, UK, and Switzerland.

Putin’s aggressive militarism and expansionism are a threat to more than just Ukraine. We must not stand by idly in the face of this threat. Putin must be pressured to either recommit Russia to peace, democracy, and rule of law, or he will persist with the politics of aggression. If he continues in this direction, the US, the EU and their allies will have to take further punitive steps to address the escalating tensions.

“We don’t need sanctions for the sake of sanctions but we need clear and continuous pressure on Russia,” stated the Foreign Minister. He did not believe that the previous sanctions were effective. The most recent sanctions that were just implemented could however have the power to hurt the Russian economy.

The mood is beginning to change considerably within Ukraine. More people  are against the occupation and annexation. “They believe this to be an act of regression,” said Klimkin.

The Foreign Minister looks to implement reforms as soon as possible in order to become a member of the EU in the near future. The goals of EU membership and political recognition from the international community are vital. While Ukraine is being pulled in two different directions, it is ready to transparently address all concerns—Ukraine truly understands what is at stake in this tug of war.

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Drops and strikes

A grim President Obama announced last night that the United States is dropping humanitarian assistance to stranded civilians in Iraq and will also strike Islamic State (IS) convoys if the extremists move on Erbil, the thriving capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.  IS has reportedly taken the Mosul Dam.  Yezidis and Christians, both anathema to IS, have fled.

Continuing to do nothing had become more difficult than doing something, but the President’s moves are at the lower end of the military intervention spectrum.  They fall in the temporary expedient category.  They will do nothing to reverse IS gains but may save some lives and steer IS away from Erbil.

Those objectives rank high as immediate priorities, but they don’t solve long-term problem, which is the consolidation of IS control over a substantial portion of western and northern Iraq. From there it can threaten Syria, Kurdistan, Turkey and Shia-dominated southern Iraq.  IS can also threaten Europe and the United States if it becomes a haven for international terrorists.

The drop that really matters is the political one. Prime Minister Maliki is said to be negotiating the conditions for stepping down from the prime ministry.  He wants immunity from prosecution and and security protection. That would be a small price to pay for unfreezing the political situation in Baghdad, though Maliki is likely to remain a force in Iraqi politics for a long time to come.  His State of Law coalition won the largest number of seats in the April parliamentary election and he won by far the most personal preference votes.

Moving Maliki out of the prime minister’s office may be a necessary step, but there is no reason to believe it will be sufficient. Whoever replaces him will have a difficult time reconstituting the Iraqi security forces and maintaining a governing coalition that necessarily has to include Sunnis and Kurds as well as Shia. New American military equipment will take time to arrive and the Iraqis will need time to learn how to use it effectively. There will be no instant reversal of IS gains because some brave new soul sits in the prime minister’s office.

Meanwhile in Gaza the 72-hour ceasefire has expired. Hamas immediately dropped more rockets on Israel. The Israelis are striking Gaza from the sea and air. My guess is that this will not last. Both sides seem at the end of their gains. But that does not mean there will be a serious political settlement that changes the situation in a fundamental way. We may just be in for another long pause before they go at it again.  That would be a shame, above all for the people of Gaza. Israeli strikes and Hamas drops will solve nothing.


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The politics of Gaza reconstruction

Both the  New York Times and the Washington Post feature articles this morning on the destruction in Gaza and the need for physical reconstruction.  Houses, mosques and factories are destroyed, infrastructure damaged, people displaced, the economy upended, the society traumatized.  Close to 1900 people died and many times that number were injured.

Current estimates put the reconstruction bill at $6 billion.  If the past is prologue, even that amount won’t restore Gaza to its pre-war state, which was already miserable due to two previous wars with Israel and seven years of embargo.

The physical conditions are not, however, the main obstacle to Gaza’s reconstruction.  The big issue will be who is responsible for it, Hamas or the Palestinian Authority (PA), and what conditions will govern it. The Europeans are already proposing that the PA be in charge and that reconstruction be conditional on Hamas’ demilitarization. Their proposal is said to include:

Preventing the armament and strengthening of Hamas and the rest of the terror organizations in Gaza.

Rehabilitating the Gaza Strip in cooperation with the international community and the Palestinian Authority and enabling the transfer of humanitarian aid.

Setting up an international mechanism to prevent the entry of prohibited materials to the Strip and ensuring that materials such as cement and iron do not reach the terror organizations but are used only to rehabilitate Gaza.

Returning the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas to the Gaza Strip.

The possibility of returning the European Union’s Border Assistance Mission to the Rafah border crossing alongside the Palestinian presidential guard.

I have my doubts that anything like this can be accomplished, as it would depend on Hamas pretty much admitting defeat as well as accepting PA authority and continued international monitoring. It would also require the Europeans to re-enter Gaza.  The language sounds more like an Israeli proposal to me than a European one.

From even before the end of the war, the Israelis have been tying reconstruction to demilitarization and reestablishment of PA authority in Gaza. The Egyptians will agree, as the current military-backed regime in Cairo despises Hamas and wants it defanged. Egypt’s Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) backers are also likely to agree, because Hamas is a Muslim Brotherhood organization that rival Qatar supports. The question is whether the Saudis and the UAE will put their deep pockets at the service of Egypt’s and Israel’s efforts to do even more political damage to Hamas in the post-war period than was done during the war.

Another key question concerns the people of Gaza. Will they rally around Hamas, or will their pre-war souring on Hamas’ ineffective governance continue? Will the PA, not known for either speed or effectiveness, be able to take advantage of the situation to at least establish itself and its unity government as a serious player in Gaza, able and willing to provide humanitarian and reconstruction planning and assistance?

There are important political questions on the Israeli side of the equation as well. Israeli protests of the Palestinian unity government have faded in recent weeks. Has Prime Minister Netanyahu come to the realization that the unity government strengthens those in Palestine who are most willing to collaborate with Israel on security questions?  Can he reverse his ill-conceived opposition to a technocratic institution that nudges Hamas in the right direction?

The question of accountability will also be important for Israel. There were a lot of Israeli strikes on civilian concentrations, including UN schools and other shelters, during this month-long Operation Protective Edge.  Israel claims that it does its best to avoid civilians. Now it has to demonstrate that by seriously investigating and publishing detailed accounts of why it hit targets in which civilians were killed. Illegal targeting, if any, needs to be punished.

Post-war reconstruction is not only a physical activity. It is a political one as well.

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