Robert M. Danin
The United States treats Gaza as a pariah, supporting its isolation in an effort to undermine Hamas. This approach is counterproductive. Isolating Gaza only strengthens Hamas’ grip, perpetuates Palestinian political stagnation, and helps preclude the creation of a Palestinian state and peace with Israel. Reconnecting Gaza with the West Bank politically and economically, and reestablishing legitimate nationwide institutions, is necessary for an enduring Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic agreement. The Obama administration should encourage an end to Gaza’s economic isolation, national elections, and the formation of a regional contact group to promote Palestinian reconciliation. This does not mean ending Hamas’ diplomatic isolation, but instead creating conditions to empower Palestinian leaders looking to make peace.
Mark N. Katz
The United States and other Western countries have been highly critical of Russia for supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. There are, however, some uncomfortable similarities between Russian policy toward Syria and U.S. policy toward Bahrain.
Both Syria and Bahrain are ruled by undemocratic minority regimes. In Syria, the Assad regime is drawn from the country’s Alawite minority — about 12 percent of the population — which has long suppressed the Sunni majority. In Bahrain, the royal family is drawn from the country’s indigenous Sunni minority — about 25 percent of the population — which has long suppressed the Shiite majority.
Mark N. Katz
Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution seeking to induce Syria’s Assad regime to stop killing its own citizens. Moscow has been particularly vociferous about preventing “external interference” in Syria or of even supporting the call for Bashar al-Assad to cede power to his vice president (as has occurred—at least officially—in Yemen). Chinese statements have been more measured, and it is doubtful that Beijing would have voted against the resolution if Moscow had even abstained on it.