Israel’s dangerous dynamic In Syria
Al-Dostour, Jordan, January 23
Last February, when the Syrian air defense shot down an Israeli warplane intruding Syrian airspace, the Syrian regime spoke about a “change in the rules of engagement.” The idea was that Syria will no longer tolerate Israeli violations of its sovereignty. The Russian decision to equip the Syrian regime with the S-300 missile system certainly provided reason to believe this threat.
However, so far Israel has succeeded to impose its own rules of engagement with Syria and Iran. Hardly a week goes by without Israeli warplanes launching missile attacks against Syrian targets, often in sensitive locations such as Damascus International Airport. There is no doubt that Israel is directly responsible for these strikes – not only in defiance of Damascus and Tehran, but also as an expression of contempt for Moscow.
The attacks we’ve seen in the past few weeks have been particularly aggressive. Israel, which normally conducts pinpointed strikes in remote territory, targeted the heart of Damascus’ airport with heavy warheads, leaving behind massive destruction. The Syrians responded with equally harsh firepower, by launching surface-to-surface missiles into Israeli territory. In doing so, the two sides approached an unprecedented point of collision.
Neither government wants to ignite a full-scale war, but if the situation continues to follow the same path and escalate, nothing will prevent a Syrian-Israeli confrontation.
Damascus is doing its best to reduce casualties and contain attacks, but it does not have the defense systems needed to fully prevent Israeli incursions. It does not even seem to have Russia’s green light to use the S-300 missiles against Israeli warplanes in its own airspace. One option that the Syrian regime has is to open a front against Israel from Lebanese territory. However, this would have to be approved by Iran, which currently does not appear to support such a move.Therefore, the most critical player in this military escalation remains the Kremlin. The Israeli arrogance put Moscow in a very awkward position, especially as Israeli warplanes continue to imperil Russian aircraft operating in Syrian airspace. Such Israeli behavior pushes Moscow ever closer to Tehran and Damascus, undermines the credibility of the Kremlin and even threatens achievements of the Russian campaign in Syria.
I do not know how the Kremlin will act, and what offers it can make to Israel in order to limit its attacks in Syria. What I do know is that the Israeli hubris has created a very complicated and fragile dynamic that could set the entire region on fire. – Arib al-Rantwai
French-Italian brawls over Libya
Al-Khaleej al-Jadeed, UAE, January 22
Western newspapers have already written in length about the fierce political rivalry between France and Italy over Libya, which is taking place amid a political process backed by the United States aimed at countering Iran’s growing influence in the region. Sadly, Libya’s political impasse continues to exist more than seven and a half years after the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime.
“There will be no peace and stability in Libya unless the international community reaches consensus.” These are the words of Abdulhafiz Ghouqa, a human rights activist who served as deputy chairman of the National Transitional Council during the 2011 Libyan revolution. But France and Italy continue to clash over Libya and push reconciliation off the table.
France has historically enjoyed widespread popularity in Benghazi, most notably due to its military campaign that prevented Gadhafi’s militias from entering and attacking the city.
In contrast, Italy has enjoyed immense backing in the capital city of Tripoli, mostly due to its effort to curb the inflow of Libyan migrants into Europe through recognition of, and subsequent negotiations with, the newly-formed Libyan government. The two cities, however, are home to two separate Libyan governments vying for supremacy and international recognition.
To make matters more complicated, the United Nations recently appointed a new special representative to Syria. The representative, an American diplomat by the name of Stephanie Williams, began working closely with the US Embassy in Libya to increase Washington’s involvement in negotiations between the two parties, partially in an effort to ease tensions between Paris and Rome. However, America’s interest is to expedite the elections in the country and ensure that a new government is elected before Iran increases its foothold in the country. While keeping Iran out of Libya is important, the expedited elections might not necessarily be in the best interest of the Libyan people, who want to ensure that all political parties agree upon the terms and conditions of the elections before they take place.
With so many hands in the pot, Libya’s prospect of stepping out of its political stalemate and achieving national unity seems less likely each and every day. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Unfortunately, the Libyan people, like always, will be those to ultimately pay the price. – Saleh Al-Naimi
Will Netanyahu succeed in manipulating the system?
Al-Ayaam, Ramallah, January 22
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is close to finalizing the investigation into Case 4000, in which Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of providing tax breaks to the Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq in return for friendly press coverage. Netanyahu, at the request of his lawyer, demanded to postpone the publication of the results in the case until after the April elections. However, the attorney general announced that the investigations will follow their pre-determined timeline, which was decided upon ahead of the elections.
Since announcing the elections, Netanyahu has been struck by panic around the possibility of facing recommendation for indictment in one or more of his cases. He understands that this will dramatically influence the course of his campaign. According to current polls, Netanyahu’s Likud Party is expected to win an all-time high number of seats, despite the allegations against the prime minister. It is therefore not unlikely that the corruption scandals have actually strengthened Netanyahu, who is portrayed as a victim of a police conspiracy to bring him down. This is particularly true among hardliner Likud supporters who have no faith in the police or the judiciary.
One thing surely working for Netanyahu is the numerous leaks coming out of the attorney general’s office. The fact that classified information about the investigations is being leaked to the public bolsters Netanyahu’s narrative of being a scapegoat. This will likely be the message his upcoming campaign will focus on and according to preliminary responses on the ground, it may very well be a successful campaign.
If Netanyahu wins the upcoming elections – which all polls predict he will – there is no doubt that the first bill the Likud would turn to legislate is one preventing an acting prime minister from being indicted. This would secure Netanyahu’s victory and prevent him from being put on trial for at least another four years. – Hany Habib
Israel’s Judaization of Palestinian curricula
Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, London, January 21
The Israeli government is seeking to implement several plans designed to accelerate the Judaization of Jerusalem, even as it continues to surround the city with separation barriers of new settlements.
Israeli institutions, with the support of the Netanyahu government, are trying to achieve absolute control over the Arab education sector in Jerusalem. About 66% of the Palestinian curriculum, which has been imposed upon primary schools in east Jerusalem since 1968, has already been modified by the Israelis. Accordingly, the word “Palestine” has been replaced with the word “Israel” and “Al-Quds” with “Jerusalem.” Within the text itself, the Israeli Ministry of Education falsifies history and geography, contradicting facts on the ground.
These initiatives aren’t new. They began with former mayor Nir Barkat, who personally saw the closure of UNRWA schools in Jerusalem and replaced them with schools belonging to the Jerusalem municipality. All of them will now abide by the Zionist curriculum or lose funding. Students are presented with concepts and terms that are consistent with Israel’s Jewish identity, while undermining the Palestinians’ right to the land and defaming Islam.
It has become clear that Israel is trying to harass Arab students in Jerusalem, forcing them to leave their schools, which, in turn, subjects them to expulsion from the city according to Israeli law. To make thing even more difficult, the Israeli authorities have prevented the renovation and construction of additional classrooms and schools for Arab students, thereby preventing the absorption of new students through the natural growth of the population, which stands at more than 3% annually.
Therefore, the Israelis are now using the education system in east Jerusalem to curb the natural growth of the population and expel existing residents to other parts of the West Bank. This will help the Netanyahu government ensure that the Palestinians in Jerusalem do not exceed 12% of the city’s total population – and eventually even less than that. – Nabil al-Saheli
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