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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 7/18/2012: End Of Likud/Kadima Coalition

From DG:
1) Coalition ends

Given the disbanding of the Plesner Committee, tasked with coming up with a plan for drafting Chareidi men two weeks ago, the dissolution of Israel's unity government is less of a surprise than its formation. Whatever else is true about Israeli politics, Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud do not appear to have been hurt much by the failure to arrives at workable solution.

In Unity Government in Israel Disbanding Over Dispute on Draft the New York Times reports:
With the economy strong and domestic terrorism all but disappeared, few doubt Mr. Netanyahu’s re-election, even if the draft failure has hurt him; now, it seems clear he will run from the right, and less likely that he would take steps on settlements or the broader Palestinian conflict that might alienate conservative and religious voters.  
Far less clear is what will become of Kadima, a center-left party that broke away from the Likud in 2005 and has lost traction in recent months.  
Similarly in Israeli coalition unravels as centrist Kadima party quits over draft dispute the Washington Post reports:
Kadima now returns to being the largest opposition party, one that had plummeting popularity before it joined the alliance. 
Netanyahu, on the other hand, enjoys strong approval ratings, and his Likud party is expected to easily win the next elections, scheduled for late 2013. Avraham Diskin, a political scientist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said the coalition’s fate until then is likely to depend on the ultra-nationalist party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who backs an aggressive conscription law that would also draft Israeli Arabs.
Neither article was terrible, but both suffered from one of the shortcomings Barry Rubin identified in the mainstream media's coverage of the Middle East. Both mentioned what Israel could do or attempt to do to help the peace process along. A week after President Abbas refused to negotiate because Netanyahu wouldn't release a sufficient number of terrorists, it's odd that anyone would still be suggesting that it is solely or mostly up to Israel to make peace.

2) Syria links

Barry Rubin notes some factors suggesting that Assad is running out of time:
There are three main factors that are making a rebel victory seem more likely.
First, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Turkey’s facilitation and U.S. coordination, are sending arms to the opposition. 
Second, the regime has been rushing the same trusted units around the country to put down upsurges. After many months of battle, these forces are getting tired and stretched thin. 
Third, President Bashar al-Assad really has nothing to offer the opposition. He won’t leave and he can’t share power. His strategy of brutal suppression and large-scale killing can neither make the opposition surrender nor wipe it out. Even if he kills civilians and demonstrators, the rebel military forces can pull back to attack another day.
Jonathan D. Halevi writes in Moment of Truth approaching in Damascus (via Daily Alert):
In a video uploaded to YouTube on Monday, Free Syrian Army commander Riad al-Asaad ordered rebel forces in southern Syria and the rural part of Damascus to wage the final battle against Assad’s forces in the capital. Rebel forces in the northern and eastern parts of the country were told to go to Aleppo, the economic capital of Syria. 
Asaad’s statements reflect growing confidence among the rebels, who have destroyed a large number of armored vehicles and helicopters, killed thousands of soldiers while taking many others prisoner, striking a lethal blow to the Syrian army’s morale. Many Syrian army troops now appear to be exhausted, lacking resolve or belief in the justice of their cause. Desertions keep mounting and now include senior officers and circles close to the regime.
Khaled Abu Toameh reports Now the are slaughtering Palestinians:
According to Palestinian sources, unidentified militiamen stopped the bus, kidnapped the Palestinian men and took them to an unknown destination. A few days later the Syrian authorities announced that they had discovered the bodies of the victims in a field.
The men had been shot in the legs and chest before they were slaughtered like cattle, the Palestinian sources said.
...
Some Palestinians blamed radical Islamic gangs operating in Syria, while others did not rule out the possibility that the murderers belonged to President Bashar Assad's security establishment. 
Benny Avni wonders if Assad or someone else will use his chemical weapons:
Whether or not Assad survives the deadly 16-month rebellion against him, his long-ignored weapons of mass destruction may soon be in play. 
Whoever gets these terror weapons, and what they do with them, is a question to be handled by real world powers. It’s far beyond the capacity of the United Nations and Kofi Annan, to which America has so far subcontracted our Syria policy. 
Washington has reportedly detected trucks moving chemical munitions out of storage facilities in the area of Homs — a hotspot of the rebellion against Assad’s rule.
Jonathan Spyer writes about a report showing the cynicism of the Assad regime:
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Nawaf Fares, a senior Syrian diplomat who defected to the rebel side asserted that the Assad regime was responsible for a major act of terror in Damascus, which was blamed at the time on al-Qaida. 
The former Syrian ambassador to Iraq left Syria last week. 
In the interview withTelegraph correspondent Ruth Sherlock, Fares claimed that the regime set up the bombing of a military intelligence headquarters in al-Qazzaz, ensuring that personnel at the base absented themselves minutes before the explosion, and that the only casualties were civilians.
There more from Fares at MEMRI.
"I would like to remind Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki: You know full well what Bashar Al-Assad did to Iraq and to the Iraqi people. Your security agencies know full well the extent of the damage and the killings – thousands of Iraqis were killed – at the hand of Bashar Al-Assad. 
"The Iraqi PM, the security agencies, and most of the Iraqi politicians are fully aware of this and have documentation of it. Personally, I have a lot of criticism toward the [Iraqi] prime minister for taking a stand that runs counter to the way things really are.
[...]
"He knows full well what Bashar Al-Assad did against him personally, against the Iraqi people in its entirety, and against the Shi'ites in particular."
While Ambassador Fares's charge in the Telegraph seems consistent with other actions taken by the regime, the interview transcribed by MEMRI he seems to be trying to distance himself from the regime.

The latest news from Syria seems to be a significant blow to Assad.
The bomber, said by a security source to be a bodyguard assigned to Assad's inner circle, struck a meeting attended by ministers and senior security officials in the Syrian capital as battles raged within sight of the presidential palace. 
State television said Defence Minister Daoud Rajha and Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, the deputy defence minister, had been killed in a "terrorist bombing" and pledged to wipe out "criminal gangs". 
A Syrian security source confirmed Shawkat, 62, was killed and said intelligence chief Hisham Bekhtyar was wounded. State television said Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar had also been wounded in the blast.
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