Voices from the Arab press: Israel’s existential question

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 MICRON TECHNOLOGY Inc. offices in Shanghai, China, seen May 25. (photo credit: REUTERS/ALY SONG/FILE PHOTO)
MICRON TECHNOLOGY Inc. offices in Shanghai, China, seen May 25.

Israel’s existential question

Okaz, Saudi Arabia, June 8

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An objective assessment of the Arab-Israeli conflict proves to be a challenging and multifaceted issue. The ongoing contention is accompanied by grandiose claims, ricocheting rhetoric, and seemingly pervasive tribalism. After the upheavals of the so-called Arab Spring, formerly stable nations have been reduced to smaller entities that often harbor regional ambitions.

Israel, meanwhile, has taken to brandishing its strength and privilege with increasing arrogance. As the potential for peace was embraced in many Arab countries, the State of Israel appeared to reinforce its existence, prompting questions in the minds of Israelis about the country’s identity, its governmental system, and its sovereignty.

The Abraham Accords have emerged as a boon for the signatories yet also attracted a storm of condemnation from Arab nations. However, it is these very agreements that bring the internal contradictions within Israel to a head. If the leadership that has ruled Israel for the past seven and a half decades has centered the state around security – be it the army, the Mossad, or Shin Bet – they have ignored the domestic issues that have been swept under the rug. Issues such as the fact that a new generation of Israelis no longer share the same views as their parents, but rather have their own ambitions and aspirations.

Consequently, the recent massive protests in Israel had nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict nor the Palestinian issue, but rather were focused on the question of Israeli identity. The ruling party is attempting to seize control of the state’s apparatus, including the judiciary system. While Israel may feel secure in its current regional standing, three mistakes made in recent years will further destabilize the country in the decades to come.

The first is Israel’s continuous undermining of neighboring countries, and the attempt to push them into wars with pre-state groups. The second is keeping Palestinians suffering and forgoing any potential opportunities that could serve as the foundation for long-term peace, including the Arab Peace Initiative. The third is perceiving peace negotiations with other Arab countries as a topmost priority.

 TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by new cabinet members, visits the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara, June 6. (credit: Presidential Press Office via Reuters)
TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by new cabinet members, visits the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara, June 6. (credit: Presidential Press Office via Reuters)

In truth, any peace between Israel and any Arab country is simply a stepping stone for a comprehensive peace, contingent upon a full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab lands and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state. In Israel’s ongoing efforts to address its essential questions of existence, identity, and peace, it is embarking on a journey that will be shaped by the developments of the region and, in many ways, will be out of its own control. – Rami Al-Khalifa Al-Ali 

A war without bloodshed

Al-Ittihad, UAE, June 7

Those who pay attention to the escalating tensions between the United States and China recognize that the most influential and consequential conflict lies within the realm of hi-tech products that rely on integrated circuits, microchips, and other electronic components. Both countries are developing at a rapid pace and the race to create the best technologies has taken center stage.

Technology has become a primary source of power, and the electronic chips needed to enable and enhance this power in both quantity and quality have become indispensable. Consequently, the “war” over these chips has taken on greater significance than any military confrontation, as superiority in this arena could be a decisive factor in the outcome of this conflict.

The repercussions of this “war” are more extensive than one would expect from a regular conflict. Additionally, this “war” is intertwined with the exacerbating conflict over Taiwan, home to the world’s most significant chip manufacturer. A war initiated by Washington has intensified in recent years, as it became evident that it could not outrun China. The only way for it to stay ahead was to impede the latter’s access to the crucial elements of its base capabilities. Consequently, Washington has targeted Beijing’s acquisitions of the most advanced electronic chips. Additionally, Washington has imposed restrictions on the sale of manufacturing equipment and software used in its design. On top of that, it has barred the Yangtze Memory Company from carrying out its operations in the US.

China initially sought to mitigate the effects of these restrictions via various means before ultimately responding by implementing limits on American tech titan Micron’s operations in China. This particular enterprise was targeted as its chips can be easily replaced with imports from South Korea-based corporations such as Samsung and SK Hynix.

It is expected that the flames of this war between the US and China, which the US is actively involved in, will only intensify. Washington is also concerned about its lack of control over American companies, mainly motivated by the pursuit of profit. Accordingly, the US government began offering incentives to these companies linking them to a program ensuring that the Pentagon and intelligence agencies are supplied with the most advanced technologies. This is to satisfy the country’s need to protect national security.

On March 1, a new law allocating $39 billion in incentives for electronic chip makers such as Intel and NVIDIA, and another $13 billion for research and development in this field, went into effect. This is a war without bloodshed, a war of the mind rather than battleships, bombs, and missiles. Yet its implications are just as deadly. – Waheed Abdul Majeed 

Artificial intelligence and the future of jobs

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, June 9

The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) is driving fearful discussions around the disappearance of jobs and tasks that are traditionally done by humans. This has particularly impacted the working class, who experienced similar fears years ago when office programs were introduced, displacing large numbers of secretaries and accountants. These conversations are indicative of technology’s power to disrupt the labor market and revolutionize the way we work.

Technology has undeniably played a role in reducing employment opportunities yet not to the point that warrants fear and panic. Claims that AI will dominate the future workplace are unfounded, as it is unfathomable to conceive of a universe where AI directs all operations and renders human input unnecessary. I would like to offer a reminder that, despite technological advancement in program use for databases, there remains a requirement for a skilled operator.

Research has suggested that, by the year 2040, students will be able to benefit from a more independently driven education, facilitated by robots that are proficient in modern technology. I recently witnessed people discussing the potential of AI to create novel or textual content. There are already advertisements for services that will offer this innovative capability.

Despite this, we tend to overlook the fact that human beings are integral to all technology development initiatives; we should exploit new technology to serve the world rather than become its captive. To achieve this goal, we must combat its potential hazards by recognizing and managing technological advancements in the best way possible.

We must approach the future with caution and consideration, keeping close track of all developments. It’s essential to carefully assess our preparedness for what lies ahead and to use our creative energies to establish tangible goals. In doing so, we must be equitable when determining our current position, particularly concerning technological progress. Artificial Intelligence is now an inescapable reality, and we must engage with it without apprehension or dread of automation stealing jobs from human hands. – Abdel Latif El Menawy 

New and old Turkey

Asharq Al-Awsat, London, June 9

Winning a new presidential term after a quarter of a century in the driver’s seat in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has seen both ups and downs, from small victories to major setbacks. The Prime Minister since 2003 and President of the Republic as of 2017, Erdogan has been reelected to serve a five-year term that could present plenty of success as well as challenges.

Undoubtedly, the next five years will offer a precarious balance between prosperity and obstacles. Erdogan and his party, rooted in conservatism and a neo-Ottoman identity, have been faced with mounting economic, international, and regional challenges. The Russian-Ukrainian war and its aftershocks have posed particular challenges to Turkey, particularly concerning its neighbors. Incidents such as the confrontation near the Bosporus waters illustrate the extremity of the situation and provide insight into Turkey’s attempts to maintain a special stance within this conflict.

Furthermore, Erdogan’s policies in Syria going forward remain pivotal following the Arab world’s turn toward Damascus, a process that has created ripples in Turkey’s relationship with the West amid tensions in northern Syria. Speaking of Arabs, how will Turkey deal with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Arabs fleeing it, in light of Turkish attempts at establishing conciliation with the Arab world?

Indeed, there are indications to temper the Turkish embrace of the Brotherhood, and likely revealing of that is the exodus of several Brotherhood emissaries from Turkey to Britain and other countries. Is it a radical transformation of Turkey and its policies moving forward?

March 2024 will mark the centenary of the end and abolition of the Ottoman caliphate along with the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the exile of the final Ottoman Caliph Abdulmejid II. I am interested in seeing how Erdogan’s era and his international fan base will address such a significant moment in history, and how the old-new Turkish government will handle the latest developments in the region. – Meshary Al-Dhaidi

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.