Voices from the Arab press: Has Israel arrived at its most precarious point?

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

 BRICS SUMMIT: (From L) Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva; China’s President Xi Jinping; South African President Cyril Ramaphosa; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose in Johannesburg, Aug. 23.  (photo credit: Alet Pretorius/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
BRICS SUMMIT: (From L) Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva; China’s President Xi Jinping; South African President Cyril Ramaphosa; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose in Johannesburg, Aug. 23.
(photo credit: Alet Pretorius/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Has Israel arrived at its most precarious point?

An-Nahar, Lebanon, August 24

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Israel is now facing one of the most dangerous moments in its history. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has destroyed all hope of a two-state solution by burying the Arab Peace Initiative, burying the peace process, and allowing a single state to exist on land stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. This has resulted in a perpetual crisis for the Palestinians, entrapping them in an oppressive state in which Israeli law reigns arbitrarily.

It is crucial to recognize this reality in order to find a way to resolve the conflict. The far-right government in Israel is not only undermining democracy within the country, and disregarding the Arab Peace Initiative, but its leaders are also suggesting a “final solution” that would culminate in forcing Palestinians to flee to Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

But the true crisis lies in the hypocrisy of the Israeli military, which misleads the public into thinking that it is “in charge” of the situation. However, while it “toys” with the idea of bombing Syria to “mow the Iranian grass,” it is, in fact, only able to take out half of the inbound threats. While it tries to impede the Iranian nuclear program, Israel is pushing Iran toward the finished project and a bomb virtually ready for detonation, with nations in the region setting out to create parallel deterrents.

Moreover, Israel is selling illusions to the public, claiming tactical successes but neglecting to initiate peace negotiations, even with its Arab and American allies. Over the years, Israel’s diplomatic elites have effectively prevented major attempts to resolve the conflict. They are well aware that, even with the Camp David Accords, the Wadi Araba Treaty, and the Abraham Accords, conflicts with Egypt and Jordan remain unresolved. Similarly, nothing has been done to address the situation with Syria, Palestine, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Rather than embracing a historical opportunity proposed by King Abdullah, the arrogance of power and mere convenience got in Israel’s way. The public was mistakenly convinced that Israel could survive a prolonged state of ongoing war, with the threat of a third or fourth intifada looming, or more military operations in Gaza.

 YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN shows Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin his school lunch factory outside Saint Petersburg, 2010. (credit: Alexey Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN shows Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin his school lunch factory outside Saint Petersburg, 2010. (credit: Alexey Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Recent strategic shifts in the Middle East have seen Iran and Turkey enter the scene as two of Israel’s direct competitors. When America turns its back to the Middle East, lethal conflict may break out in the region without warning. How can we arrive at a point of equilibrium?

If deterrence consisted only of using means of force, then America would have triumphed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ultimately, deterrence relies on the wisdom of history and politics, allowing one party to impose its will, regardless of its strength or frailty.

Despite fears that Israel may take unilateral military action against Iran, it is clear that the Arab states are not relying on this prospect. They understand that the United States will not engage in armed conflict in this matter, and as a result, the recent normalization agreements are not connected to any endeavors to counter Iranian influence. Rather, the signing of these agreements is part of a strategic configuration and repositioning of forces in the area. It is undeniable that the nuclear program in the region, not excluding Israel, presents dangers, as does the potential for the proliferation of weapons in all forms.

In the absence of an all-out regional war, and the current state of US and Russian relations, determining a new type of deterrence is key. The United States no longer seeks to act as an international policeman; it will involve its military assets only when its own strategic interests are at stake. As for Iran, the countries of the region must take charge of addressing this rogue state.

Now, amid a fracturing geopolitical landscape, Israeli political and military circles have a sense of hubris. Yet, they may be overlooking some crucial facts. The demise of the two-state solution has paved the way for a growing regional conflict. For years, Israel sought to remain insulated from the Middle East in order to safeguard its grip over Palestinian lands. But now, this country is being left out in the cold, as Washington drifts away from Tel Aviv. This has forced Israel to make impossible choices between integration into the region and its territorial aspirations. Additionally, Israel must take strategic considerations for deterrence and counter-regional defense into account.

Equally troubling are the structural changes within the Israeli military. The proposed conscription law and the Basic Law on Torah studies threaten to make the military a hotbed of political tensions and social polarization, and it’s clear that many younger citizens are less and less motivated to enlist.

Strengthening the regional alliances of US partners does not require reinforcing the US-Israel alliance in opposition to Tehran. I have no doubt here that Israel envies some countries in the region due to the United States’ earnest dedication to their relationship, and the way it takes their interests into consideration at a time when it is curtailing the Netanyahu government’s international prestige.

As Israel seeks to quell its tensions with the Palestinians, creating a false sense of stability and diverting attention toward Iran, its deterrence continues to diminish. Has Israel arrived at its most precarious period? – Samir Al-Taqi

Do we need to join BRICS?

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, August 23

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa announced that the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – had agreed to extend an invitation to Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates to join the group.

This development will benefit both the collective as well as individual members. We’ve already discussed the benefits of forming a coalition of this sort, not out of hostility, but out of mutual support among countries around the globe. Our main objective centers on delivering results through equitable economic agreements and balanced relationships.

Yesterday, in a discussion, a Western diplomatic friend of mine provided wise commentary when assessing the BRICS group and whether the West believes that this bloc has been established against it. His opinion is that everyone should benefit from the existence of BRICS, and that Egypt’s induction could create a positive outcome for all parties.

At a press conference on Wednesday, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor noted that the BRICS countries had agreed to open membership to new countries, and members of the group will provide more details during the summit’s conclusion. Pandor stated that the BRICS countries adopted a document outlining the guidelines and principles for the expansion of the group. This document highlights the criteria for potential new members of the bloc.

Egypt has been keen to join the BRICS alliance for years, submitting an informal request before officially applying. The implications of joining BRICS are significant for Cairo. As a group, BRICS represents more than 40% of the world’s population and accounts for around 30% of global goods and services, as well as over 31.5% of the global economy’s growth. Consequently, Egypt’s potential membership could prove to be of great benefit. Joining BRICS presents a great opportunity for Egypt to enhance its trade and joint investments with other member states.

One of the primary benefits of the organization is its tendency to conduct business in local currencies or in forms of money other than the US dollar, which can ease the foreign exchange pressures Egypt is enduring. Diversifying its currency basket may not be a complete solution to the problem, but it undoubtedly offers a positive outcome for Egypt.

The presence of Egypt in BRICS offers various advantages. Primarily, it serves as an entry point for access to and steering of goods and services to the African continent. Furthermore, Egypt can take advantage of its geographical location to leverage the African market. Undoubtedly, this role is commensurate with Egypt’s goal and unique positioning. – Abdel Latif El-Menawy

What’s next after Prigozhin?

Asharq al-Awsat, London, August 26

The crash of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s plane due to a technical malfunction, or a premeditated attack, has unfortunately resulted in the death of the Wagner militia. This event marks Prigozhin’s departure from the political and military scene, which could lead to a decrease in the Wagner Group’s role and its assimilation into official institutions. This is a result of the nature of the Russian military establishment, which cannot coexist with militias, no matter how allied or supportive they are.

The assassination of Prigozhin will have repercussions on the Russian domestic sphere, regardless of how Moscow attempts to create the facade of strength and stability within its borders. It is not possible that such an event will go unnoticed and not affect the reputation of the Kremlin, both internally and in the international arena. The feat of its military ventures in Ukraine will no longer be seen with the same level of admiration.

For more than two months, Prigozhin’s rebellion has captivated public opinion both locally and abroad. Speculations ran rampant as to the cause of the rebellion, Prigozhin’s objectives, the reason for his retreat, and the battle he had been waging with his comrades in arms in the Kremlin.

The crash of Prigozhin’s plane has had a powerful influence on the collective Russian consciousness. It serves as a warning to anyone who would dare to challenge the authority of the state – whatever their strength, they will pay the price.

The timing of the crash, in the wake of domestic unrest, brings into question the form of rule and the distribution of power in Russia, leaving some to speculate as to whether the accident was natural or deliberately planned. Questions of Prigozhin’s involvement in and connections to those intent on stopping the war remain unanswered.

The ongoing clash between the camps of those wanting the war to continue and those in favor of ending it has seen the former hold sway, transitioning from offensive to defensive strategies. Despite Ukrainian counterattacks, the Ministry of Defense has maintained a secure position. It is yet to be seen which party will ultimately prove victorious.

Amid a lack of options for direct combat, Wagner has failed to accomplish most of the tasks assigned to it in Ukraine, and its elite forces on the front lines are sparse. Its leader is likely angling to protect it from being overextended in Ukraine and saving it for potential rebellions in the North Caucasus, one of the most rancorous sites of tension for the Kremlin. Russia is now grappling with the competence of its armed forces to shield the Kremlin from possible inner coups or other uprisings.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin is now putting his faith in the National Guard due to his waning trust in the Wagner Group and the eroding assurance in Ramzan Kadyrov, who leads the Chechen militias. – Mustafa Fahs

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.