FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world
Source: Thompson Reuters
Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.
Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.
The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.
U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)
Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed approximately $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid. Successive Administrations have requested aid for the Palestinians in apparent support of at least three major U.S. policy priorities of interest to Congress:
• Preventing terrorism against Israel from Hamas and other militant organizations.
• Fostering stability, prosperity, and self-governance in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians toward peaceful coexistence with Israel and a “two-state solution.”
• Meeting humanitarian needs.
Preparing for “Hybrid” Opponents: Israeli Experiences in Lebanon and Gaza
Source: RAND Corporation
The experiences of the Israel Defense Forces against hybrid opponents — Hezbollah and Hamas — in the recent conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza will help the U.S. Army understand the capabilities that it and the joint force will require in the future.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Foreign Assistance: U.S. Assistance to the West Bank and Gaza for Fiscal Years 2010 And 2011. GAO-12-817R, July 13.
2. Defense Infrastructure: The Navy’s Use of Risk Management at Naval Stations Mayport and Norfolk. GAO-12-710R, July 13.
Introduction:Arab populations have many similarities and dissimilarities. They share culture, language and religion but they are also subject to economic, political and social differences. The purpose of this study is to understand the causes of the rising trend of diabetes prevalence in order to suggest efficient actions susceptible to reduce the burden of diabetes in the Arab world.Method:We use principal component analysis to illustrate similarities and differences between Arab countries according to four variables: 1) the prevalence of diabetes, 2) impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 3) diabetes related deaths and 4) diabetes related expenditure per person. A linear regression is also used to study the correlation between human development index and diabetes prevalence.Results:Arab countries are mainly classified into three groups according to the diabetes comparative prevalence (high, medium and low) but other differences are seen in terms of diabetes-related mortality and diabetes related expenditure per person. We also investigate the correlation between the human development index (HDI) and diabetes comparative prevalence (R = 0.81).Conclusion:The alarming rising trend of diabetes prevalence in the Arab region constitutes a real challenge for heath decision makers. In order to alleviate the burden of diabetes, preventive strategies are needed, based essentially on sensitization for a more healthy diet with regular exercise but health authorities are also asked to provide populations with heath- care and early diagnosis to avoid the high burden caused by complications of diabetes.
Palestinian Initiatives for 2011 at the United Nations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State, Foreign Press Center)
Many Members of Congress are actively interested in the question of possible U.N. action on Palestinian statehood. Congress could try to influence U.S. policy and the choices of other actors through the authorization and appropriation of foreign assistance to the Palestinians, the United Nations, and Israel and through oversight of the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts.
Changes to aid levels may depend on congressional views of how maintaining or changing aid levels could affect U.S. leverage and credibility in future regional and global contexts. Officials from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) are taking action in the United Nations aimed at solidifying international support for Palestinian statehood. On September 23, 2011, at the opening of the annual session of the General Assembly, PLO Chairman and PA President Mahmoud Abbas submitted an application for Palestinian state membership to the U.N. Secretary-General—on the basis of the armistice lines that prevailed before the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 (the “1967 borders”)—in order to bring about a Security Council vote on whether to recommend membership. Abbas cites a lack of progress on the peace process with Israel as the driving factor behind PLO consideration of alternative pathways toward a Palestinian state. The Obama Administration has indicated that it will veto a Security Council resolution in favor of statehood. In an alternate or parallel scenario, an existing U.N. member state supportive of PLO plans may sponsor a resolution in the General Assembly. Such a resolution could—with a simple majority vote—recommend the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders—either as-is or subject to future Israel-PLO negotiation—and change Palestine’s permanent observer status in the United Nations from that of an “entity” to that of a “non-member state.” U.S., Israeli, and PLO diplomacy focused on Europe—particularly permanent Security Council members France and the United Kingdom—has been active and could further intensify as the time for a possible vote draws closer. Diplomacy also might currently or in the future include negotiations regarding the venue for, and the timing and wording of, potential resolutions or other actions on Palestinian statehood.
This report provides information on the U.N. framework and process for options being discussed, including overviews of the following topics: the United Nations and recognition of states, observer status in the United Nations, and the criteria and process for United Nations membership. The report also analyzes the prospects for avoiding U.N. action by reaching an Israel-PLO agreement to resume negotiations, as well as the possibility of a compromise U.N. resolution that could set forth parameters for future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations but stop short of addressing the question of Palestinian statehood beyond expressing aspirations.
It is difficult to predict the potential future implications of U.N. action on Palestinian statehood. Some observers speculate that tightened Israeli security with respect to the West Bank and Gaza and popular unrest or civil disobedience among Palestinians could ensue, depending on various scenarios. Although Abbas maintains that he seeks an eventual return to U.S.-backed Israel-PLO negotiations on a more equal basis, an upgrade of the Palestinians’ status at the U.N. also could facilitate subsequent efforts to apply greater pressure on Israel, especially if the PLO gains greater ability to present grievances in international courts—such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or International Criminal Court (ICC). Whether U.N. action or its aftermath would make Israel more or less willing to offer concessions in a negotiating process remains unclear, especially in light of ongoing regional political change and the volatility and possible deterioration of Israel’s political and military relationships with Egypt and Turkey.
The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
This report provides an overview of current issues in U.S.-Palestinian relations. It also contains an overview of Palestinian society and politics and descriptions of key Palestinian individuals and groups—chiefly the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian Authority (PA), Fatah, Hamas, and the Palestinian refugee population. For more information, see the following: CRS Report RS22967, U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians; CRS Report R41514, Hamas: Background and Issues for Congress; and CRS Report R40092, Israel and the Palestinians: Prospects for a Two-State Solution, all by Jim Zanotti.
The “Palestinian question” is important not only to Palestinians, Israelis, and their Arab state neighbors, but to many countries and non-state actors in the region and around the world— including the United States—for a variety of religious, cultural, and political reasons. U.S. policy toward the Palestinians since the advent of the Oslo process in the early 1990s has been marked by efforts to establish a Palestinian state through a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict; counter Palestinian terrorist groups; and establish norms of democracy, accountability, and good governance within the PA. Congressional views of the issue have reflected concern that U.S. bilateral assistance not detrimentally affect Israel’s security by falling into the hands of Palestinian rejectionists who advocate terrorism and violence against Israelis.
Among the current issues in U.S.-Palestinian relations is how to deal with the political leadership of Palestinian society, which is divided between the PA in parts of the West Bank and Hamas, a State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, in the Gaza Strip. Following Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in June 2007, the United States and the other members of the international Quartet (the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia) have sought to bolster the West Bank-based PA, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
After attempts to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations stalled in 2010, however, Abbas in 2011 has actively worked to obtain more widespread international recognition of Palestinian statehood and is considering having the PLO/PA petition the United Nations for full membership or at least an upgraded status. The potential ramifications of these developments, including possible U.N. Security Council and/or General Assembly votes in the fall of 2011, have contributed to a climate of regional and international uncertainty, particularly amid ongoing and widespread political change and unrest in the Arab Middle East. The United States and Israel are concerned that Palestinian recourse to international forums and methods could circumvent—and thus undermine—the U.S.-mediated negotiating process and possibly stoke populist sentiment, leading to potentially destabilizing nonviolent or violent action in the West Bank and Gaza and throughout the region.
The Gaza situation also presents a dilemma. Humanitarian and economic problems persist, but the United States, Israel, and other international actors are reluctant to do more than provide basic humanitarian assistance because of legal barriers to dealing with Hamas and/or potentially negative political and strategic consequences that might follow from any such dealings. The May 2011 power-sharing arrangement among Palestinian factions that would allow for presidential and legislative elections and reunified PA rule over Gaza and parts of the West Bank remains unimplemented. Since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993, Congress has committed more than $4 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, over half of it since mid-2007— including $800 million in direct budgetary assistance to the PA and approximately $550 million to strengthen and reform PA security forces and the criminal justice system in the West Bank.
See also: U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians (PDF)
Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people: Developments in the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory
Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people: Developments in the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory (PDF)
Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
While the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) grew by 7.4 per cent in 2009 and 9.3 per cent in 2010, unemployment remained high, at 30 per cent in both years. The growth was driven by donor support, and reflects an economy recovering from a low base. Economic growth has not altered the reality of worsening long-term development prospects, caused by the ongoing loss of Palestinian land and natural resources, isolation from global markets, and fragmentation. Unemployment, poverty and food insecurity, especially in Gaza, continue to be alarming. The Palestinian Authority’s fiscal position remains precarious, despite recent improvements. A large trade deficit and dependence on the Israeli economy persist. New evidence suggests that the trade deficit with Israel is overstated by official data, which mask “indirect imports”. The tax revenue on such indirect imports, currently lost, could increase Palestinian public revenue by 25 per cent. Meanwhile, the economic ramifications of the severance of East Jerusalem from the rest of the OPT call for serious attention too. In spite of limited resources, UNCTAD continues to respond to the needs of the Palestinian economy in coordination with other United Nations organizations and donors, and has recently commenced a new project to “strengthen Palestinian trade-facilitation capacity”.
Air Operations in Israel’s War Against Hezbollah
Source: RAND Corporation
In response to a surprise incursion by Hezbollah combatants into northern Israel and their abduction of two Israeli soldiers, Israel launched a campaign that included the most complex air offensive to have taken place in the history of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). Many believe that the inconclusive results of this war represent a “failure of air power.” The author demonstrates that this conclusion is an oversimplification of a more complex reality. He assesses the main details associated with the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) campaign against Hezbollah to correct the record regarding what Israeli air power did and did not accomplish (and promise to accomplish) in the course of contributing to that campaign. He considers IAF operations in the larger context of the numerous premises, constraints, and ultimate errors in both military and civilian leadership strategy choice that drove the Israeli government’s decisionmaking throughout the counteroffensive. He also examines the IDF’s more successful operation against the terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009, to provide points of comparison and contrast in the IDF’s conduct of the latter campaign based on lessons learned and assimilated from its earlier combat experience in Lebanon.
U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed over $4 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid. Successive Administrations have requested aid for the Palestinians to support at least three major U.S. policy priorities of interest to Congress:
- Combating, neutralizing, and preventing terrorism against Israel from the Islamist group Hamas and other militant organizations.
- Creating a virtuous cycle of stability and prosperity in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians—including those in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip— towards peaceful coexistence with Israel and prepares them for self-governance.
- Meeting humanitarian needs and preventing further destabilization, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
Since June 2007, these U.S. policy priorities have crystallized around the factional and geographical split between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. A May 2011 power-sharing agreement between Fatah and Hamas has raised concerns among some Members of Congress about continuing U.S. budgetary and security assistance to a PA government that could be subject to the approval of a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (Hamas) that claims to reserve the right to violently oppose Israel’s existence. Prospects for implementation of the power-sharing agreement remain unclear. Some observers question the extent to which Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are likely to integrate their political decisionmaking and security practices, and also question the credibility of the one-year timeline put forward for PA presidential and legislative elections. Furthermore, some U.S. lawmakers have raised the possibility that U.S. aid to the PA could be affected by Palestinian efforts to seek international recognition of Palestinian statehood outside of negotiations with Israel.
From FY2008 to the present, annual U.S. bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged over $600 million, including annual averages of over $200 million in direct budgetary assistance and over $100 million in non-lethal security assistance for the PA in the West Bank. Additionally, the United States is the largest single-state donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). However, whether UNRWA’s role is beneficial remains a polarizing question, particularly with respect to its presence in Hamascontrolled Gaza. Because of congressional concerns that, among other things, funds might be diverted to Palestinian terrorist groups, U.S. aid is subject to a host of vetting and oversight requirements and legislative restrictions. U.S. assistance to the Palestinians is given alongside assistance from other international donors, and U.S. policymakers routinely call for greater or more timely assistance from Arab governments in line with their pledges.
The power-sharing or “unity” government expected in the wake of the May 2011 Fatah-Hamas agreement will not be eligible for U.S. aid if Hamas is included in the government and does not change its stance towards Israel—possibly subject to some limited exceptions. Even if the immediate objectives of U.S. assistance programs for the Palestinians are met, lack of progress toward a politically legitimate and peaceful two-state solution could undermine the utility of U.S. aid in helping the Palestinians become more cohesive, stable, and self-reliant over the long term.
State Department Travel Warning: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
Source: U.S. Department of State
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and about threats to themselves and to U.S. interests in those locations. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to remain mindful of security factors when planning travel to Israel and the West Bank and to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip. This replaces the Travel Warning issued August 10, 2010, to update information on the general security environment and to warn against participation in any attempt to reach Gaza by sea.
The Palestinian Authority has taken significant steps over the past decade to strengthen economic governance and combat corruption, but the government still needs to complete some unfinished reforms and begin to implement others, according to the report “West Bank and Gaza: Improving Governance and Reducing Corruption,” released by the World Bank today.
“Major reforms have been carried out, particularly in public finance, and the PA is now able to better manage its public financial systems and equity holdings,” said Mariam Sherman, World Bank Country Director. “However, there are still important reforms that remain incomplete and other areas where work has not yet begun.”
Public procurement, public sector employment, and regulation of the private sector are some of the areas where reforms are underway. In a few areas, notably management of state land assets, transparency in licensing, and public access to information, the World Bank found little or no progress made to improve governance or institute reform.
“These are areas of vital importance to any government, its people and its businesses,” said Mark Ahern, Senior Public Sector Specialist and the team leader for the report. “The PA should jump-start reform efforts to improve them.”
The report also features surveys which show a high perception of corruption in public services, but very low reported experience. The surveys measure how Palestinian households and public officials view government integrity in the public service sector, and compares perception with actual experience.
+ Full Report (PDF)
Country Specific Information: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
Source: U.S. Department of State
May 25, 2011
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The State of Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a modern economy. Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem as a result of the 1967 War. Pursuant to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in 1994. Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and exercises control there. The division of responsibilities and jurisdiction in the West Bank between Israel and the PA is complex and subject to change. PA security forces are responsible for keeping order in certain areas, and the PA exercises a range of civil functions in those areas of the West Bank. Official guidance on entry, customs requirements, arrests, and other matters in the West Bank and Gaza is subject to change without prior notice or may not be available. Tourist facilities are widely available. Travelers may visit the websites of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism for tourist information. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Israel for additional information.