Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 03/31/2011

1) The Israeli electorate

Yesterday, Bernard Avishai wrote the following:

A blueprint would have enormous impact on Israeli politics, too. It would empower the moderate Israeli political parties — Kadima, Labor and the rest — to wrest back the political center from the parties of Greater Israel — Netanyahu’s Likud, Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalists and the religious.  
The Israeli center — made up of Russian immigrants, non-Orthodox Mizrahi Jews, young people close to the army — is driven by fears as much as by hopes. Like “independent” voters in America, they flock to avoid what the media depict as naïve and dangerously against the current. 
This is a very convenient way to describe Israel's polity, if one knows nothing about it.

Yossi Klein Halevi on the other hand is familiar with the makeup of the Israeli electorate:

After a brutal decade that began with the collapse of the peace process in September 2000, and which brought four years of suicide bombings, eight years of missile attacks, two wars, and at least two failed attempts at peacemaking, the Israeli public is resilient and sober. As terrorism and rocket attacks return to Israeli cities, and the Arab world reels, those are precisely the qualities Israelis need to cope. 
The precondition for containing terrorism is national unity, and on security matters at least, the nation is cohesive. In responding to attacks on civilian Israel, the government has the support of nearly every party. Knesset members of the opposition Kadima party are demanding that the government respond even more firmly—the left pressing the right to be resolute. 
Klein-Halevi provides context for the current makeup of Israel's voters - the failure of the peace process and the resultant terror. Also as he makes clear the current government is not extremist, but representative of mainstream views in the electorate. It's necessary for Avishai and his ilk to portray the current government as extreme; it's easier to blame Israel than bad policies.

2) Iran vs. Saudi Arabia

Israel Matzav noticed a news story in MEMRI indicating that Sa'ad Hariri isn't as forgiving of Assad as he's professed.

Now, it turns out, that Hariri wasn't very sincere about making up with Assad either. It seems that Hariri is supporting the anti-Assad forces in Syria

The AP reports that Bahrain's Shi'ite opposition leader is demanding the withdrawal of Saudi troops from Bahrain.

About 1,500 troops from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Sunni-led Gulf states entered Bahrain two weeks ago at the invitation of Bahrain’s monarch. The king also declared emergency rule and cracked down on protesters, killing at least 20. 
A senior Shiite opposition leader, Ali Salman, said the foreign troops must leave because the opposition rejects “any military intervening for any party” in Bahrain. Salman also said Iran shouldn’t interfere.
How serious he is about Iran not interfering is unclear. However his statement underscores the ruling family's fear that Iran would get involved.

The fear of Iranian involvement (through proxies) appears to be strong according to the AFP.

Arab states in the Gulf plan to deport thousands of Lebanese Shiites over their alleged links to Hezbollah and Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard force, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported on Thursday. 
Al-Seyassah, quoting London-based Arab diplomatic sources, said the measure was being considered because of intelligence reports that Lebanese Shiites activists had been involved in protests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile Saudi Arabia is profiting from the current unrest.

Where unrest and uncertainty are weighing down on most regional economies, Saudi Arabia is an exception these days to the trend in the Middle East 
As supplies from Libya have fallen and worries that other exporters may cut output as well, oil prices have risen about 20% this year. Benchmark Brent crude for May delivery traded at about $115 for a barrel on Thursday. Economists estimate that for every $10 increase in the price, Saudi Arabia can increase its budget by 6% of gross domestic product.
3) Whitewashing Iran?

A number of bloggers have picked up this disturbing story about Argentina.

Now, thanks to the Argentine weekly publication Perfil, Timerman is receiving attention for his position on Iran. According to Perfil, which obtained a classified document, Timerman met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his foreign minister, Walid Moallem, back in January and suggested that Argentina “would be ready to freeze the investigations of terrorist bombings attributed to Iran in 1992 and 1994, in exchange for renewing and improving trade relations between the countries, which at their height reached $1.2 billion a year.”
Timerman hasn't denied the story. What makes this remarkable is that Timerman's father was Jacobo Timerman, an Argentine publisher who was arrested and tortured by the military junta. The elder Timerman wrote about his incarceration and was a symbol of opposition to the military rulers of Argentina. Now his son is apparently making excuses for other thugs.

4) Libyan diplomatic follies
Libya's foreign minister defects. UK expels 5 Libyan diplomats.

The latter story reminded me of the killing of British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher. I had not realized that her killing had recently made it to the news again.

Omar Ahmed Sodani was paraded before journalists by rebels who seized him from a Benghazi bolt-hole where he had been hiding.  
Sodani has been described as one of the prime suspects in the murder of WPc Fletcher 27 years ago outside the Libyan embassy in central London. She was killed in April 1984 from a single round among a hail of bullets fired from a first floor window of the embassy.
5) Assad's "concilliation"

Yesterday Assad gave a speech. It was reported in a number of sources that he would try to assuage the protesters. Of course, he did not.
In his first speech to parliament since demonstrations erupted two weeks ago, Assad claimed his country has become the target of an external plot.
"Syria has become the target of a big plot from outside," Assad claimed. "I am speaking to you at an extraordinary is a test of our unity. These tests repeat themselves due to plots threatening our homeland."
It's an interesting charge, especially given the apparent presence of Hezbollah to help Assad control the "kosher" protests.
The Syrian opposition claims that Bashar Assad has been suppressing another Arab revolution with the help of Hezbollah terrorist group. At least 4,000 armed Shiite gunmen arrived in Syria to help the Syrian authorities suppress another "kosher" revolution.
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1 comment:

NormanF said...

Israel does not have to do anything. Its not clear what kind of regimes will rule the Arab World in the next decade.

In a situation with a lot of flux, the safest course is to wait and see how the dust settles and if the new environment will be favorable to peace.

The odds of that happening are rather low.