Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 11/17/11

From DG:
1) Assad family values 

According to BusinessWeek, Bashar Assad has stayed in power with the help of his personal wealth. The question remains how much longer can he buy loyalty? The magazine reports,Assad Spending Spree May Rebound as Syria Runs Short of Cash (h/t TurtleWoman777 ):
President Bashar al-Assad is paying Syrians, via subsidies and higher government salaries, to stay loyal to his government as it clamps down on an eight-month uprising. He may not be able to afford that policy for long.
A month after the unrest began, Assad dismissed a Cabinet that had been tasked with curbing government outlays, raising taxes and making the economy more competitive. The new administration increased subsidies on energy and other products. Civil service pay was raised by 30 percent. Syria has spent $3 billion from a $5 billion rainy-day fund defending the pound this year, central bank Governor Adib Mayaleh says. 
Opening the purse-strings hasn’t stopped the protests, and their suppression by security forces, at a cost of thousands of lives, has left Syria increasingly isolated. The Arab League has suspended Syria amid calls for Assad to step down, and Turkey -- a neighbor and key trade partner -- is threatening commercial sanctions to add to those already imposed by the U.S. and European Union. In that environment, Assad’s bid to buy support may backfire as the money runs out and the economy shrinks, alienating supporters among Syria’s business community.
 And when the money runs out ( or maybe before ) guess who's itching to take over? Uncle Rifaat!
On Sunday, Rifaat al-Assad took charge of a new opposition movement in exile. Afterwards, in an interview with AFP and Le Monde, he urged Arab and world powers to negotiate his nephew's safe departure from power. 
But Rifaat's former close ties to the regime and his current gilded life -- since quitting Syria in 1984 he has lived in luxury properties in London, Paris and Marbella -- may undermine his appeal to other opposition groups. 
"The solution would be that the Arab states guarantee Bashar al-Assad's security so he can resign and be replaced by someone with financial backing who can look after Bashar's people after his resignation," he argued.
Rifaat has what we would call a history. It was he who was in charge of the Hama massacre. Those seeking to depose his nephew may not be all that thrilled with having him on board with their efforts. The reason Rifaat left Syria was that he attempted a coup against his brother.

2) Controlling

Stephen Farrell of the New York Times has a video report Controlling the message in Gaza, about how Hamas uses propaganda to stay in power. While he quotes Gaza residents who claim that Gaza is much safer since Hamas routed Fatah, he also notes that it comes at a price. For example mannequins have to have their eyes covered.

3) Fighting Gaza?

The New York Times reports Israeli Army May Need to Hit Gaza, General Says:
“We cannot continue with one round after another,” the official, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, told a closed meeting of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He said the point at which a military operation would become necessary was “drawing closer.”
Any such operation would have to be ordered by the political leadership, not the military. Nevertheless, the comments raised the prospect of another armed conflict in Gaza, where a fierce three-week Israeli military campaign in the winter of 2008-2009 drew international opprobrium. 
At that time, Israel, prompted by years of persistent rocket fire on its southern communities, mounted a devastating air and ground offensive that left as many as 1,400 Palestinians dead and many homes and parts of Gaza’s civil infrastructure in ruins. Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the war.
I wish the reporter had acknowledged that at least half of those killed were combatants.

Also it's frustrating to read "Since then, Israeli security officials say, while an informal cease-fire has largely prevailed..." and then a few paragraphs later, "The relative calm since has been punctuated by a trickle of rocket fire and occasional Israeli airstrikes." The rocket fire means that there is no cease fire to prevail.

4) To swap or not to swap?

Gulf News reports PLO to drop land swap formula from talks:
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) announced on Monday that it will very soon drop the "land swap" formula, which the it branded as a grave mistake that was included in any agreement with Israel. 
Speaking to Gulf News, Tayseer Khalid, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that the formula was only mere talk by Israelis and mediators. "We have never signed an agreement with Israel, which states any shape of land swap formula," he added. "Land swap formula is a heresay in the track of negotiations," he said.
While searching for this article it appears that this isn't the first time the Palestinians have said this. They said it last year too.
In its statement Saturday, the Fatah council said it was categorically opposed to proposals for a land swap between Israel and the Palestinians under the pretext that “illegal settler gangs can’t be put on an equal footing with the owners of the lands and rights.” 
Israel has long assumed that any final status agreement would include land swaps.
Daled Amos has found that the idea of land swaps isn't just hearsay.

Whichever way it is, the idea of land swaps is one of those ideas that "everyone knows" is necessary for peace. So regardless of what they said in the past, if Fatah is now saying it won't allow land swaps, isn't Fatah now an obstacle to peace?
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