Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, COVID-19 Variants, Myanmar: RAND Weekly Recap

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February 12, 2021

We discuss Israelis' and Palestinians' views on their conflict; how sexual assault and sexual harassment affect separation from the U.S. military; what new COVID-19 variants mean for the vaccination effort; America's response to the coup in Myanmar; giving peace a chance in Afghanistan; and tips for improving your sleep (and your relationship) during the pandemic.

An aerial view shows the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site sacred to Jews and Muslims, in the Palestinian city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, November 2, 2020, photo by Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

Photo by Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

Alternatives in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

For decades, the two-state solution has dominated efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Are there are any alternative solutions that average Israelis and Palestinians would support? To find out, RAND researchers conducted focus groups with more than 270 West Bank Palestinians, Gazan Palestinians, Israeli Jews, and Israeli Arabs.

Our researchers asked participants about five options, including a two-state solution. None of the alternatives were acceptable to a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians. And while the two-state solution was the most viable alternative, all four groups voiced skepticism toward it.

These findings highlight the deep distrust and profound animosity on both sides of the conflict. It also suggests that a resolution will likely require more holistic “peace deals” than have been previously suggested.

A worker stands next to the shipment of 600,000 doses COVID-19 vaccines donated by China at the Phnom Penh International Airport, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, February 7, 2021, photo by Cindy Liu/Reuters

A worker stands next to a shipment of 600,000 doses COVID-19 vaccines in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, February 7, 2021

Photo by Cindy Liu/Reuters

COVID-19 Variants Make Equal Vaccine Access Even More Important

New and more-transmissible COVID-19 variants are emerging around the world. If some countries don't receive timely access to vaccines, then the virus will continue to spread in some populations, mutate further, and potentially render existing vaccines less effective. Even worse, vaccines could become ineffective against some mutations. This is why international collaboration on vaccine distribution is more important than ever, say RAND experts. It will save lives and help save the global economy.

Myanmar Army armored vehicles drive along a street after they seized power in a coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, February 2, 2021, photo by Stringer/Reuters

Myanmar Army armored vehicles drive along a street after they seized power in Mandalay, February 2, 2021

Photo by Stringer/Reuters

Myanmar Coup: Biden's First Foreign Policy Test

On Wednesday, President Biden announced U.S. sanctions against the generals who directed the coup in Myanmar. He also urged the military to relinquish power and respect the results of Myanmar's recent election. According to RAND's Jonah Blank, a “tough-minded approach” from the Biden administration could lead to progress in Myanmar. And although sanctions are unlikely to reverse the coup, they do send a message to the rest of the world: Violations of global norms will have consequences.

U.S Marines static line jump from a KC-130J Hercules over Drop Zone Basilone on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., December 10, 2020, photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels/U.S. Marine Corps

U.S. Marines jump from a KC-130J Hercules aircraft over Marine Corps Base Camp in Pendleton, California, December 10, 2020

Photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels/U.S. Marine Corps

How Sexual Assault and Harassment Affect Separation from the Military

U.S. service members who experience sexual assault or sexual harassment face a wide range of mental and physical harms. A new RAND report—the latest in our series on this topic—highlights yet another negative effect of these crimes. Sexual assaults double the odds of service members separating from the military within a 28-month period. Additionally, sexual harassment was associated with roughly eight percent of all military separations during the same time period.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, signs an agreement with Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar, February 29, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

Taliban delegation leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sign a peace agreement in Doha, Qatar, February 29, 2020

Photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

Afghanistan: Give Peace a Chance

As peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government continue with little progress, the United States faces a May deadline to withdraw all of its troops. According to RAND's James Dobbins, delaying the withdrawal could give Kabul and the Taliban more time to address core issues that must be resolved if any settlement is to stick. This might be the Afghan people's only hope of preserving the economic, social, and political gains of the last 20 years.

Woman sleeping alone in large bed, photo by DedMityay/Getty Images

Photo by DedMityay/Getty Images

How Couples Can Sleep Better During the Pandemic

With the first Valentine's Day of the COVID-19 era just a few days away, it's a good time to talk about couples' sleep strategies. Pandemic-related stress can intensify sleep problems, says RAND's Wendy Troxel. Poor sleep can negatively affect your relationship, which in turn can lead to even more sleep issues. Troxel has some tips for how to avoid this vicious cycle. For example, instead of scrolling through social media or watching TV before going to bed, use this time to connect with your partner.

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