Hot off the Arab press 430416

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East.

A Palestinian youth throws a stone during clashes with Israeli soldiers next to the scene of a stabbing attack near Hebron on October 26 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian youth throws a stone during clashes with Israeli soldiers next to the scene of a stabbing attack near Hebron on October 26
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli extremists pushing Palestinians to their edge
Asharq al-Awsat, London, October 19
Everywhere we look around us in the Middle East we encounter chaos. In Syria and Iraq, Islamist militants are taking over vast territories to establish Islamic State. In Yemen, Houthi rebels are fighting for control over the country. In Libya, religious fanatics have toppled the government. In Lebanon, refugees keep flowing into the country.
And then there is Palestine – the longest-bleeding wound of the Arab world. The turmoil in our region must not let us forget about what is currently happening there.
Why? Because the Palestinians are suffering from a war with two enemies – an explicit one and a hidden one.
The first is the fanatic Jewish Right which has made its way to the top of the Israeli government, rejecting any territorial concessions with the Palestinians. It incites the public and buries hope for any solution that would end the conflict. It encourages people to murder and kill, steal lands and destroy the homes of Palestinians.
And along the way, it pushes young Palestinians to adopt Islamic State-like methods of resistance against the occupation.
The second enemy – the hidden one – exists among the Palestinians. It is the political divide that is growing bigger and bigger among them, pushing them to fight against one another. It is the result of too many years of failed hopes for a brighter future; a result of the corruption and nepotism that have struck the Palestinian Authority in past years.
Both of these wars mean that the Palestinians today have no choice. They have to stand up for themselves and protect their homeland. We, in the Arab world, must stop dictating to them what to do. Let them stand united as one. For them, it is do or die.
– Eyad Abu Shakra
The religious element of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Al-Qabas, Kuwait, October 23
There is no doubt that the current wave of unrest in Jerusalem is the result of Palestinian anger following too many years of negligence and disregard under the Israeli occupation. But there is also no denying that the Arab-Israeli conflict has a central religious component to it.
Religion, however, has not always played a central role in this war. On the Palestinian side, Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, was established only in 1987. On the Jewish side, the Zionist movement that brought the establishment of Israel was strictly secular throughout most of its years. In fact, most Israeli prime ministers – from Ben-Gurion to Golda Meir – did not consider themselves religious at all.
All of this changed in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and began attributing its victory to divine powers. Religious Israelis began claiming that their right to the land was derived from a biblical promise to settle it. From this point onward, many Israelis commonly accepted the ethos of “Greater Israel.”
Interestingly enough, however, secular parties are still very influential in Israel. The Jewish state remains attractive not only to Jews but also to Arabs. A recently conducted public opinion poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center, revealed that 52 percent of Arab Israelis would prefer to stay and live in Israel, if and when a Palestinian state is created. These are interesting and important findings, as they shed light on the domestic politics of Israel. They reveal that despite the religious foundations of the conflict, some Arabs may come to terms with Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.
– Hamed al-Humood
Does Assad’s visit to Moscow signal a political solution?
Al-Mustaqbal, Iraq, October 22
Bashar Assad’s recent visit to Moscow surprised most observers. It was the president’s first visit outside Syria since the revolt against his regime erupted over four years ago, and it came just three weeks after the first Russian forces were deployed in the country.
Despite Moscow’s military assistance and the aid of Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Assad has still not succeeded in taking over the rebels’ strongholds.
His visit to Moscow last week is particularly interesting, as it may very well signal the Syrian administration’s preparedness to reach a political solution to the ongoing war, as opposed to a military one. It might also be an attempt of the Kremlin to explain exactly where it is headed on the Syrian issue, and how it would like to resolve this crisis.
Even the European and Turkish positions seemed to have shifted in favor of Assad in recent weeks, expressing their consent to see him stay in power.
The challenge now will be to get the opposition forces to sit down with Russia’s representatives and find a solution to the situation. Russia’s military involvement carries many dangers, but it also presents some prospects for an up-and-coming solution to the crisis.
– Raba Kabara
Saudi effort to distance Iran from the Horn of Africa
Al-Arabiyah, Saudi Arabia, October 23
In recent years, Tehran has invested great efforts in strengthening its ties with Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan – four countries located in the Horn of Africa.
The Iranian Navy also deployed forces in the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, in an effort to exert control over the Gulf of Aden. It is through these connections, for example, that Iran was able to smuggle weapons into the hands of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Recently, however, we are witnessing a Saudi effort to defy and challenge this Iranian expansion. Last week, King Salman hosted the leaders of Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea in Riyadh, in an attempt to rekindle the kingdom’s relationship with its African neighbors.
Evidence of the warming of ties was already evident in Sudan’s recent decision to join the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Khartoum sent ground and air forces to the Gulf, to assist the Saudi military efforts. There have also been discussions on forming a Saudi-led police force that would patrol international waters and prevent piracy and terrorism, backed by the countries in the region.
It seems as if, in the wake of the recent deal with Iran, Riyadh is willing to go to great lengths to ensure its stance in the Gulf. It will do whatever it can to rid the region of Iranian influence.
At the same time, it is also looking toward Southeast Asia, where many Muslim countries – mainly Malaysia and Indonesia – could serve its interests. It is only a matter of time until Riyadh launches new initiatives there, too.
– Hassan al-Mustafa