Hot off the Arab press 484350

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, March 9, 2017 (photo credit: KREMLIN PRESS SERVICE)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, March 9, 2017
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, March 12
A few days ago Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow, where he met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. In his meeting with the Russian president, Netanyahu laid out the Israeli perspective on a political deal in Syria: any diplomatic solution is fine by Israel, so long as Iran is not part of it.
Allowing Iranian forces, or Iranian-backed militias, to remain in Syria once a cease-fire agreement is reached will spell bad trouble for Israel. It will allow Iran to extend its hand to three of Israel’s five borders.
But truth be told, Israel is not alone in this concern.
Such a situation will also spell out bad trouble for other countries in the region, such as Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf States. They, too, are not interested in seeing Iran turning Syria turn into its own backyard, just like it did with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. As far as they are concerned, Iran must be tamed, whether this interest aligns with that of Tel Aviv or not.
In recent weeks, the Israeli government has become increasingly concerned about Syria. This is what prompted Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow. The Israelis, as well as Gulf leaders, have kept silent so far, but, now, with prospects of a resolution becoming more likely, they cannot afford to stay quiet. Russia’s influence in Syria has become so widespread that it de facto runs and operates the country. It could even be said that Russia now shares a border – even if a virtual one – with Israel.
Netanyahu understands this new dynamic very well, and chose to begin addressing the Syrian problem by paying a visit to his next-door neighbor, Vladimir Putin. Only he will determine what happens in Damascus and who gains the upper hand.
– Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
Al-Ayaam, Ramallah, March 8
In his latest Islamophobic move, US President Donald Trump is attempting to promote a bill that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization. While similar bills were introduced during Obama’s presidency, the White House repeatedly rejected them and even recognized the Brotherhood as the legitimate regime in Egypt following the country’s 2012 elections.
If passed, the repercussions of Trump’s order will be a huge source of concern. The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest political movement in the Arab world, with millions of members and supporters. Adding the organization to the US terror watch list would allow American authorities to deport anyone suspected of affiliation with the organization simply by virtue of suspicion. This will apply to anyone who has ever come in contact with the Brotherhood: members of its charity organizations, schools, social clubs and political parties.
Calling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization is the closest Trump can get to making a blanket statement against all Muslims. It is an excuse embodying a larger hatred. The Brotherhood is the means, not the end goal, of Trump’s obsessions and hatred of the Arab world. Such a decision will only play into the hands of the right-wing and Zionist extremists. They will not make the American public safer.
– Youssef Razka
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, March 9
If anyone needed another reminder as to why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is nothing but a liar, it is enough to look back at details of the secret meeting held in Aqaba last March, on which the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in length.
Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers have been calling to solve the conflict with their Palestinian neighbors through a “regional settlement.” The prime minister has repeatedly boasted his country’s shared interests and close ties with moderate Arab regimes.
But what is he really talking about? In the aforementioned Aqaba meeting, attended by secretary of state John Kerry, Egyptian President Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi, and Jordanian King Abdullah, Netanyahu was offered everything he ever demanded in his “regional” vision: two states for two peoples, Palestinian and Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley.
But Netanyahu, unsurprisingly, said no. He refused to move forward with the plan because it didn’t include his ultimate desire: to maintain control over the West Bank.
With US President Donald Trump now in office, Netanyahu’s ministers have radicalized their stance even further. They now range between opposing a Palestinian state altogether, like MK Naftali Bennett, to offering a joint confederation between Palestine and the Jordan River, like MK Tzipi Hotovely. Surely, Israel is simply trying to maintain the status quo while deflecting the blame onto a third party.
Netanyahu is cynically manipulating the moderate Arab regimes, which are desperate to appease Trump, by giving them the false impression that he is actually interested in peace. If they are wise, they will distance themselves from him as much as they possible can.
– Ghassan Sharbil
Al-Jazeera, Qatar, March 6
Turkey is on a collision course with Europe. In his most recent salvo of rhetorical attacks on European leaders, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, accusing them of conspiring against his country.
Erdogan is still bitter. He did not forget how European leaders stood by the rebels’ side when the latter attempted to overthrow his regime last July. European leaders, in turn, haven’t remained quiet in the face of these attacks. Austria’s minister of foreign affairs, Sebastian Kurz, publicly criticized Erdogan’s brutal oppression of civil rights in Turkey. Like him, Germany’s Angela Merkel expressed doubts about the prospects of Turkey joining the European Union given the current treatment of its citizens.
However, neither side is interested in exacerbating these already high tensions. This has become all the more difficult in recent weeks, since Turkish authorities provocatively arrested a German-Turkish journalist in Istanbul. This ongoing conflict revealed Europe’s objection to Turkey’s admission into the European Union. But it also exposed Istanbul’s growing frustration with Europe. Both sides are playing the game, while being acutely aware of their own limits.
Turkey cannot survive without European trade, tourism and investments. Europe, caught between Trump on the west and Putin on the east, cannot afford to lose Turkey. This goes without even mentioning the Syrian refugee crisis. With this in mind, it seems like the current crisis is nothing more than a rhetorical frenzy.
Ties between Turkey and Europe will never grow warm, but they are also not likely to come to an abrupt end. Turkey’s foreign policy, like that of any other country, is first and foremost a product of its domestic politics.
– Hasham Shaker