Hot off the Arab press 484976

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

Valentine’s Day in downtown Beirut last month (photo credit: REUTERS)
Valentine’s Day in downtown Beirut last month
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Lebanese internal strife: Have we reached a point of no return?
Al-Anwar, Lebanon, March 16
It seems as if the deep political tensions prominent throughout the entire Arab world have not passed over Lebanon. While Lebanon enjoys stability and relative peace, Lebanese society has been growing increasingly divided in recent years. Sectarian tensions reached an all-time high in the last few months, with several events suggesting that Lebanese society may very well be on the verge of yet another civil war.
First, in a few Palestinian refugee camps, including Ain el-Hilweh, violent clashes erupted between local gangs and Lebanese security forces. This came just a few weeks after Lebanese authorities began constructing a wall around the camp, turning it into an open-air prison.
On the Israeli front, there have been rumors about the possible eruption of a war this summer, following growing provocations carried out by the Zionist regime against forces on the border.
On the American front, the US administration has been aggressively outspoken against Lebanese President Michel Aoun, risking his regime’s stability and undermining its legitimacy.
In mosques across the country, sectarian rhetoric, including the issuing of religious rulings, has been on the rise.
All of these events suggest that the troubles of the Arab world are making Lebanese citizens more anxious about their own identity and society. Instead of coming together as one, the Lebanese people are beginning to show signs of deep internal ruptures.
At a time when the Arab and Muslim worlds are facing attacks, we must find unity and coexistence among us. We must fight our outside enemies, instead of each other. If we don’t act fast, we will reach the point of no return.
– Kasem Kusayer
Will Hamas redefine its revolutionary vision?
Al-Ayaam, Ramallah, March 12
In just a few weeks, Hamas’s leadership council will ratify a political document that spells out the future vision of the movement. This document is nothing short of a dramatic turning point in the movement’s history.
In recent years, particularly since the Arab Spring, Hamas has found itself increasingly isolated by its once close allies. It lost its regional partners in Egypt, Syria, and the Gulf. The movement’s leaders, including the chairman of its Political Bureau, Khaled Mashaal, who have been running the organization from the comfort of their homes in Qatar, are no longer welcomed by their host states.
This required Hamas to make dramatic adaptations that would revive and reinvigorate the movement both locally and internationally.
The most dramatic development introduced in the document is its call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, even without a formal recognition of the State of Israel.
Although officials in the movement profoundly deny the allegation that the new document will replace Hamas’s founding charter drafted almost three decades ago, historical precedents suggest otherwise.
When other Palestinian factions, including the PLO, adopted new guidelines, they de facto reinvented themselves.
I personally believe that this is the case here as well. Hamas is disaffiliating itself from the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is replacing its anti-Jewish rhetoric with rhetoric against the “occupiers.” Finally, it is placing Palestinian national unity at the core of its political effort.
By doing so, it is not only making itself relevant again locally, but also paving the way to international recognition by other countries around the world.
This may very well be a revolutionary moment in Palestinian national history.
– Sliman Abu Irshid
Russia wins over yet another Arab country
Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, London, March 14
Ever since Tunisia’s establishment in 1956, its political leaders have been particularly wary of their relations with Moscow. They welcomed Russian investments in their country but limited any further intervention by Moscow in their internal affairs. Indeed, Tunisia’s first and longtime president, Habib Bourguiba, chose to ally himself with European countries and the Western Bloc.
Several strategic changes, however, have recently unfolded, altering this long-standing stance.
First, Tunisia’s long-standing political and economic allies in Europe have been suffering political trouble themselves. The rise of nationalist parties in countries such as France – which is Tunisia’s closest European trade partner – raises many doubts regarding the future relations between the two countries.
The new American president is also a reason for concern.
Donald Trump spells significant uncertainty and worry for Tunisia, which attempted to garner American support for its military and economy.
Finally, Tunisia’s neighbors, particularly Libya, have openly embraced Russian intervention in their domestic affairs, a move that significantly boosted their economies. All of this means that Tunisia cannot afford to sit idly by as its partners disappear.
Tunisian politicians realize this all too well. Last month, the Tunisian foreign minister met his Russian counterpart and discussed ways to enhance trade and cooperation between the two countries. Russian tourists are already flocking to Tunisian resort towns, after the two countries signed mutual travel and visa agreements.
The West is busy with its own crises. Trump makes a lot of noise, just like his nationalist friends in Europe.
And in the meantime, without their notice, another Arab country has slipped into the hands of Russia.
– Saladin al-Jurshi
Russian-Israeli discussions on Syria
Asharq al-Awsat, London, March 17
All regional leaders are setting their eyes on Moscow, eagerly waiting to see what will become of the Kremlin’s newest cease-fire proposal in Syria. Putin’s vision for the future of Syria will have monumental effects on the entire region.
What most people ignore, however, is the role of Israel in shaping this solution. Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow and discussed the situation in Syria with his Russian counterpart in great depth.
The Israelis don’t care if Bashar Assad stays in power.
If anything, this is a win-win situation for Tel Aviv: a weak Syrian opposition together with an even weaker Syrian president. What Israel really wants to see is the departure of Iranian and Hezbollah forces from Syria, as soon as a cease-fire is implemented.
But according to several sources that were involved in the discussions held last week, Putin refused to give Netanyahu what he wanted. He claimed that he simply cannot be portrayed as an advocate of Israel, and that he still relies on Iranian forces in his fight against Islamic State.
With this understanding in mind, Israel is now trying to devise new ways to drive Hezbollah out of Syria. It has amped up its rhetoric about a possible campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, in an attempt to shift the movement’s focus from Syria back to its own country.
But even without Israel, there is enough reason for concern. Why? Because it is the interest not only of Tel Aviv but also of any sane Arab regime to demand that the Iranians be removed from Syria as part of a peace deal. All Arab leaders must travel to Moscow to make this demand heard. Otherwise, Iran’s meddling in Syria’s domestic affairs will continue unhindered. Sooner or later, it will all come crashing down.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed