Ofer Zalzberg

Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de enero de 2008. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.

The Dome of the Rock is seen in the background as a Palestinian woman prays on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Apart from its many other faults and its overall one-sidedness, and despite its authors' claims to the contrary, the US plan for Israel-Palestine, unveiled at the end of January, proposes perilous changes to the historical status quo at Jerusalem's Holy Esplanade.

The 14-hectare (35-acre) compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, is Judaism's holiest site and Islam's third-most sacred after Mecca and Medina. The contested site, which is home to both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, is currently supervised by Jordan's Islamic Waqf according to an unwritten Ottoman-era arrangement. Per the arrangement, Muslims are allowed to pray at the site, while non-Muslims are only allowed entry as tourists.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Joint List Osama Saadi, Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi and Mansour Abbas arrive for a consulting meeting with the Israeli President, to decide who to task with trying to form a new government, in Jerusalem on September 22, 2019. AFP/Menahem Kahana

As Israel’s politicians negotiate what government can take power after the 17 September elections, it is worth noting a historic step taken by ten out of thirteen members of the country’s Joint List of small Arab-Palestinian majority parties. Their recommendation of Blue and White’s chairperson Benny Gantz for prime minister is the first by an Arab-majority party or list for a Zionist party since 1992. That Blue and White is headed by three former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) generals, one of whom campaigned on his heavy-handed treatment of Gaza, makes this doubly ground-breaking.

What explains this reversal? For one, the Joint List’s recent decision to move by majority rather than consensus vote allows it to better reflect the views of Israel’s Palestinian citizens.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke is seen following a fire at Aramco facility in the eastern city of Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia on 14 September, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

For much of 2019, Crisis Group has warned that a trigger event could spark direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, on one side, and Iran on the other, precipitating a regional conflagration. The combination of the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, Iranian pushback, the spiralling civil war in Yemen and the paucity of de-escalation channels available to the rival actors has primed the region for such an outcome, even if neither side wants it. Now more than ever, cooler heads are needed to lower the temperature, break the escalatory cycle and chart a diplomatic off-ramp.

The exact nature and provenance of the attacks remains disputed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Labourers work on hanging up a Likud election campaign banner depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his party candidates, in Jerusalem 28 March 2019. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Who will win the upcoming parliamentary election?

Current polls project that the governing Likud party will secure enough seats in the Knesset for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to put together a new right-wing governing coalition, similar to the one he now leads. Netanyahu’s campaign has emphasised his claim to be a strong defender and saviour of Israel and other successes, such as keeping Israel out of new wars and overseeing a period of macroeconomic prosperity and improved standing in the world. Neither the opposition’s charges against him nor the Attorney General’s recommendation to indict him seem to have harmed him much so far.…  Seguir leyendo »

Assad’s army is moving south. In recent weeks, elite forces that led offensives such as the capture of Eastern Ghouta have been massing at the edges of rebel-held areas in Quneitra and Daraa. These frontlines have been quiet ever since the United States, Russia and Jordan agreed to establish a de-escalation zone there in early July 2017. Last week, the Syrian army resumed its attacks against the southern rebel areas, while holding out the offer of so-called “reconciliation” – which the rebels reject as surrender by a different name. This week the U.S. signalled passivity: it told southern rebels they should not expect U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

AN AERIAL view of the Temple Mount and east Jerusalem.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The US embassy’s move to Jerusalem on May 14 following US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize the disputed city as Israel’s capital might have triggered a new round of uproar, but it also provides an opportunity to implement measures we believe can reduce tension over the holy places.

In recent years, the Holy Basin – which for our purposes comprises the Old City and the surrounding areas such as Silwan, Mount Zion and Mount of Olives, most of which lie in east Jerusalem territory that Palestinians claim as their future capital – has seen excavations of unprecedented scope, followed by massive investment to turn antiquity sites into tourist attractions and develop new sites of Jewish worship.…  Seguir leyendo »

Muslim worshipers perform Friday Prayer at al-Aqsa Mosque compound after lifting of Israeli restrictions on Al-Aqsa, in Jerusalem on 4 August, 2017. Mostafa Alkharouf / Anadolu Agency

A series of momentous events in Israel-Palestine, both national and religious in character, risk spiralling into a dangerous escalation. Since 30 March, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have protested each Friday at the border with Israel. According to the UN, Israeli soldiers have so far killed 40 Palestinians and wounded over 2,000 with live fire during the protests; Israel killed over a dozen more in unrelated events in Gaza. The weekly protests are to culminate in what is billed as the largest demonstration on 14 May, when the U.S. is relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.…  Seguir leyendo »

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri in Sochi in 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

As President Bashar Assad and his allies gain the upper hand, a new phase in Syria’s war has set Israel and Iran-allied militias on a collision course.

Israeli officialdom agrees that the next war with Hezbollah, greatly empowered since 2006, will cause enormous harm at home. Residential towers in Tel Aviv will be struck, with many casualties, as will strategic sites like the Ben-Gurion Airport and the maritime gas rigs. That Lebanon would pay a much higher price may offer little consolation to Israelis in harm’s way.

To prevent Syria from becoming a spark for Israel-Hezbollah or even Israel-Iran wars, there are two key realms to contend with: control of Syria’s southwest, and the establishment of Iranian and Hezbollah military- strategic assets across Syria.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Israeli government’s reaction has been one of muted celebration, respecting President Trump’s request not to further enflame Palestinian and Arab sentiments. The recognition won praise from Israel’s entire governing coalition and from parts of the opposition. For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump’s declaration is an achievement that distracts from his political troubles. Isaac Herzog, the opposition’s chairperson in the Knesset, called it “historic justice.” Rabbis spoke of the U.S. president as an agent of divine will, and Zionist thinkers depicted him as a latter-day Lord Balfour.

Those who support annexation of the West Bank now have a tailwind. Their initiatives have been put on hold until Palestinian protests subside, but they soon will resurface.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Donald J. Trump on 6 December 2017 declared U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking decades of precedent even while saying the U.S. was not “taking a position of any final status issues”.

Has President Trump endorsed Israel’s position on the status of Jerusalem?

Not precisely, although many are understanding it that way. In policy terms, a central question is what President Trump recognised as Israel’s capital. Was it West Jerusalem, thereby leaving open the possibility that East Jerusalem would be the capital of a future state of Palestine? Was it present-day municipal Jerusalem within its unilaterally expanded borders, thereby essentially pre-empting the final status of the city? Or was it some third variant? His statement was not clear.

On the one hand, Trump specifically cited the Jerusalem Embassy Act as the basis of his decision, which refers to the “undivided” Jerusalem that Israel considers to be under its sovereignty.…  Seguir leyendo »

Volatility is rising across the Middle East as local, regional and international conflicts increasingly intertwine and amplify each other. Four Crisis Group analysts give a 360-degree view of the new risks of overlapping conflicts that involve Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Lebanon and Israel.

On 4 November 2017, Huthi/Saleh forces in Yemen fired a Burkan 2-H long-range ballistic missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh. It was intercepted and destroyed before reaching its target. The attack occurred during a profound political shakeup in Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seeking to consolidate power, and amid dramatic Saudi political manoeuvrings in the region which led to the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri. Adding to the volatility, Israel has been making veiled – and not so veiled – threats about its intent to prevent Hizbollah from developing an indigenous capacity to build sophisticated precision missiles.…  Seguir leyendo »

Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Israel/Palestine Ofer Zalzberg (right) and Israeli national religious Jewish leaders standing in front of Stormont Parliament, Belfast, Northern Ireland, in February 2017. CRISIS GROUP/Ofer Zalzberg

So much is stuck in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that it makes sense to question habitual premises and take a new approach. For me, that means deepening my engagement with one of the constituencies traditionally seen by outsiders as one of the most intransigent: Israel’s national religious Jewish community.

The more I interact with them, the more I see how detrimental it is that they are excluded from peacemaking. An opportunity to address this exclusion arises when I talk with the British organisation Forward Thinking, which organises study trips to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for parties in conflict to meet two diametrically opposed communities in the north of the country and their interlocutors in Belfast, Dublin and London.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israeli policemen stand guard as Palestinian men take part in Friday prayers outside Jerusalem's Old City, on 14 July 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

What do we know about the attack and how unusual was it?

On Friday 14 July 2017, three Palestinian citizens of Israel attacked and killed two Israeli-Druze policeman who were guarding one of the entrances to Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade – known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. The police then pursued the attackers, killing all three inside the compound. So far there has been no evidence of the attackers’ political affiliations; the police claims they have none. All three came from Um al Fahem, an Arab city in northern Israel known historically for the strong presence of the more militant, “northern” branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week’s stabbing attack at the Lion’s Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, in which two Israeli border police officers were injured and their assailant was killed, is an ominous signal of growing strains around the city’s Holy Esplanade (Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif). Tensions and clashes in and around the Esplanade are common during Muslim and Jewish holidays, at times leading to violence far from the site itself. It is worrying that two months before Passover and the holy month of Ramadan, there are already signs of escalation at the site, after a considerable period of relative calm.

The weeklong Jewish Passover holiday, during which many Temple activists will seek to enter the Esplanade, begins on 10 April; Ramadan commences slightly more than a month afterward, on 26 May.…  Seguir leyendo »

What aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are Trump and Netanyahu likely to discuss at their meeting in Washington on 15 February?

The meeting will be crucial for the future of the peace process and the remaining prospect of a two-state solution.

It seems that Trump’s policy views on the conflict are evolving, though it’s not clear from what, to what. Initially it seemed that his administration might not continue to support the two-state solution: the Republican Party platform pointedly omitted any mention of it; Trump’s nominated Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, rejects it as a “scam”; the family of Trump’s son-in-law and peace process envoy, Jared Kushner, has donated money to settlements; and the White House issued a statement saying, “we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Après n’avoir, pendant longtemps, proposé aucune solution de rechange à l’approche «  gestionnaire  » du conflit israélo-palestinien privilégiée par le premier ministre Benyamin Nétanyahou, la laissant apparaître comme la seule option possible, le Parti travailliste relance le débat au niveau national en présentant un plan de séparation.

La démarche des travaillistes marque une rupture. Le parti n’avait plus adopté de programme concernant le conflit depuis son congrès de 2002. Lors des élections de 2013 et 2015, il avait fait campagne exclusivement sur des thèmes socioéconomiques. Pour les dirigeants et stratèges du parti, défendre la solution à deux États ne pouvait que diminuer les chances de succès aux élections nationales.…  Seguir leyendo »

After long years in which Labor did not present an alternative to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conflict management approach and left it as the sole pertinent option, Labor’s new Separation Plan rekindles a national conversation on the matter.

Labor’s shift is remarkable. The last time the Party Convention endorsed a diplomatic plan was in 2002. In the elections of 2013 and 2015 Labor ran exclusively on a socio-economic ticket. Labor leaders and strategists considered the two-state solution a loser in national elections and instead ran slogans like “a third kindergarten assistant” and focused their campaign on reducing the cost of living.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the epicenter of the new escalation of Israeli-Palestinian violence is a deep dispute over Jerusalem's Holy Esplanade -- known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Tensions burst to the surface this time round with Palestinians trying to prevent the entry of religious Jews, who come in especially big numbers on the Jewish high holidays, to the site by throwing stones and firecrackers at the Israeli police. It was followed by the resumption of highly detrimental age- and gender-based limitations on Muslim entry to Al-Aqsa which Palestinians saw as a step towards “dividing Al-Aqsa”: establishing separate prayer times for Muslims and Jews after centuries of exclusive Muslim worship at the site.…  Seguir leyendo »

The violence at the Holy Esplanade accompanying the commemoration of the 9th of Av may have been a mere preview of the High Holidays in September. Dozens of young Palestinians barricaded themselves within the Al-Aqsa Mosque and attacked the Israel Police at the holy site with stones and firecrackers in order to prevent the ascension of religious Jews to the Temple Mount on the day marking its destruction. The Israel Police, under new Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, chose not to close the site to Jews, as it occasionally has done, but rather to enable the entry of hundreds of religious Jews (reportedly 300-1,200) by rushing the Esplanade and forcing closed the doors of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, sealing violent protesters inside.…  Seguir leyendo »