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Arab States Unlikely to Join Broad Military Defense with Israel Against Iran

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Iranian Sayyad 3 missiles

In an effort to re-charge the Abraham Accords launched by the Trump administration, Sens. Jodi Ernst (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK) introduced the DEFEND Act, which calls for US leadership in supporting Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait) to form a joint air and missile defense against Iran. The Biden administration will also visit Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority from July 13-16. His visit to Saudi Arabia will include a “GCC+3” summit that would reportedly include the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and the members of the GCC.

But this grand summit faces some serious challenges. While the UAE and Bahrain are already coordinating with Israel on defense, the other GCC countries plus Iraq are quite far from such a possibility. And Saudi Arabian normalization with Israel is the Biden administration’s diplomatic breakthrough to lose.

Iraq seems far from any reconciliation with Israel. Iraq recently made it illegal for Iraqi citizens to have any ties with the Jewish State, a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment. The law is so egregious that even the State Department condemned it.

Kuwait continues to express outright hostility to Israel. Yes, it is refreshing to hear that a Kuwaiti editorial supported normalization with Israel and bashed the Palestinians, calling for the Gulf States to cut off aid to the latter. But Kuwait has shown little signs of changing its actual policy towards Israel. Kuwait recently banned maritime shipping between Israel and Kuwait, as well as the film Death on the Nile because it featured Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

Qatar is a long way away from joining the Abraham Accords, and any defense agreement that would involve Israel. In a welcomed diplomatic step, Qatar will allow Israelis to visit the country using Israeli passports to attend the FIFA World Cup. Israel will also propose an arrangement with Qatar where Israel would have direct flights to the country for the World Cup. While these are welcome developments, Qatar must abandon significant hostility to Israel like its support for jihadist groups and state-sponsored anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism before it can join any broader defense agreement with the Jewish State.

While Oman has clandestine ties with Israel, it has stated numerous times that it will not join the Abraham Accords. While warm to Israel, it also has a strong relationship with Iran which includes military cooperation. So, Oman joining a defense pact against Iran seems absurd.

The most likely country to join Israel, UAE and Bahrain in a defense pact against Iran would be Saudi Arabia, who has to its credit moved incrementally closer to normalization with Israel. US and Israel are reportedly in the midst of helping to broker the transfer of strategic islands in the Red Sea from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. Both US National Security Council Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and State Department energy envoy Amos Hochstein were recently in Riyadh to help broker this deal. According to Axios, the Biden administration seeks to clinch a deal between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel on these islands before the GCC+3 summit. The deal would also serve a two-fold purpose: 1) to advance normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel; and 2) to improve US-Saudi relations that have long been antagonized by the Biden administration’s anti-Saudi policies. Israel wants security arrangements regarding the islands, as well as access to Saudi airspace to Asia, in addition to direct flights for those seeking pilgrimages from Tel Aviv to Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia currently grants Israel limited access to its airspace for flights to the UAE and Bahrain.

And as the Wall Street Journal has reported, there have been a growing number of secret business and security discussions between the two countries. According to an Israeli newspaper Globes, “dozens” of Israeli businessmen recently traveled to Saudi Arabia using special visas and their Israeli passports. This report further alleges that Israeli businessmen have been travelling to Riyadh and the future location of Neom, a planned hi-tech city, for months. The Globes article further mentions that Israelis and Saudis have already signed “a number of agreements” which each other, “including a multi-million dollar deal in the agriculture tech sector and a second deal for an Israeli water tech solution.”

The greatest hope for a broader Gulf defense agreement with Israel against Iran would be if Saudi Arabia joins the UAE and Bahrain in normalizing ties with Israel, with one or more countries following suit. Israel and Saudi Arabia have made strides towards normalization. But the Biden administration must follow its shuttle diplomacy with reversals of numerous counter-productive anti-Saudi policies. It must climb down the tree it planted when it accused MBS or orchestrating Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, without presenting hard evidence and ignoring Khashoggi’s checkered past. And it must support Saudi Arabia in its war against Iran’s proxies, the Houthi terrorists in Yemen. Only when America reconciles with Saudi Arabia can the region see a broadening of the Abraham Accords.

NOTE: Due to an editorial error an earlier draft of this story was posted, it is now updated. 

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education

Columbia alumni are also anti-Israel, threaten to withhold $77 million in donations

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2,000 people claiming to be Columbia University alumni have signed a letter pledging to “withhold all financial, programmatic, and academic support” from the institution until it meets the demands of anti-Israel protesters. The result is $77 million in donations is at risk.

National Review reports that the letter, addressed to Columbia president Minouche Shafik and the school’s trustees, expresses support for the protesters who oppose the university’s “continued collaboration with the Israeli government’s ongoing genocidal violence against Palestinians.”

“The movement for Palestinian liberation, on campus and globally, is often led by Jewish people of many nations,” the letter says. “Weaponizing claims about antisemitism to silence student speech is based on faulty logic, harms Jewish students, and distracts from true antisemitism, including the attempts by a craven American right to tokenize, exploit, and appropriate Jewish trauma and resilience.”

There does not appear to be a process to verify that people who sign the letters are, in fact, Columbia alumni. It allows people to sign anonymously.

The letter condemns the “administration’s brutal repression of student speech and assembly,” specifically president Shafik’s decision to call in the New York Police Department Strategic Response Group on protesters. Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters were arrested at Columbia and at the City College of New York on April 30, including some who barricaded themselves inside a campus admissions building.

Signatories of the letter are pledging to withhold donations until the university meets 13 demands, including: that it divests from companies that “fund or profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation of Palestine”; calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war; removes Shafik as president; bans the NYPD from campus; and drops charges against student activists, reverses disciplinary measures against them, and finances the healthcare for students who were “brutalized” by the police.

The website where the letter is shared claims that the signatories have previously provided over $67 million in financial contributions to Columbia, and that over $77 million in donations are now at risk.

The letter also claims that the university “failed to hold accountable the former Israeli soldiers who carried out a chemical attack on protesting students in January 2024.” That seems to be a reference to an incident involving anti-Israel protesters who told the student-run Columbia Spectator that during a demonstration earlier this year they were sprayed with “skunk,” a chemical developed by the Israeli Defense Forces.

While this letter is from supporters of the anti-Israel protesters, Columbia has also received pushback from opponents who say the school is allowing protesters to break the law, disrupt the educational environment, and harass Jewish students, adds National Review.

On Monday, 13 federal judges sent a letter to Columbia leaders saying they will no longer hire the school’s students as clerks due to their behavior and the school’s mismanagement of anti-Israel protests, writing that “Columbia has disqualified itself from educating the future leaders of our country.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a Columbia alumnus, said in April that he would withhold donations from the university due to the anti-Israel protests.

“I am deeply saddened at the virulent hate that continues to grow on campus and throughout our country,” Kraft said in a statement. “I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken.”

 

 

 

 

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