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MIDEAST MIRROR 19.02.19, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

TURKEY/U.S./ISIS/KURDS: Hande Firat offers a solution to the ISIS militants held in Syria in center-right Hurriyet: "I understand that President Trump brought up the subject of 800 ISIS militants twice during his phone conversations with President Erdogan. A source told me, 'Trump asks what will happen to the militants in almost every phone conversation. It is obvious that the risk of their release by the YPG [Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units] is continuously being mentioned to him.' Ankara, which has had this subject brought up several times before, reminded the U.S. that the FSA [opposition Free Syrian Army] also holds ISIS militants and that they are kept in prison. Finally, it sent the message, 'We have a solution for ISIS militants inside Syria, we will take them, and we know where to put them'."

Ibrahim Varli detects some cracks between Moscow and Ankara in leftist opposition Birgun: "Russia, Turkey, and Iran brought Syria to the table at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. They tried to reach a common accord on the issues of a new Syrian constitution, Idlib, East of Euphrates, and Syria after the U.S. withdrawal. While the summit failed to generate the desired outcome, the disagreements between Ankara and Moscow became more visible."

Burhanettin Duran cautions Europe in pro-government Sabah: "There is a point that Europe should be careful about. The YPG issue is nothing like that of foreign ISIS fighters. Europe's attempt to 'protect the YPG from Turkey in the same format as the international coalition against terror' is unworkable. A goal that the U.S. cannot attain is unlikely to be realized by France, Germany, or any other European power. This will only drive a wedge between the European capitals and Ankara. The burden that the U.S. has shifted onto the Europeans' shoulders is not easy to bear. Some, who are affected by 'PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] romanticism' may not be worried about losing Turkey. However, Turkey is of critical importance on many levels; from the future of Syria, to immigration. And it is in a position of acting as Europe's security gate."

 

THE ECONOMY: Ihsan Caralan points the finger at the government in leftist opposition Evrensel: "President Erdogan said something on TV that would astonish anyone with a modicum of sense, claiming that 'there two types of queues. During the CHP [main opposition Republican People's Party] government, it was that of poverty. After the new steps were taken, the queue of wealth emerged'. So the president is arguing that the producers sell goods to ordinary citizens at high prices, whereas the municipality-run marketplaces have solved this problem by bringing abundance to the people. Even if we accept this thesis, any citizen who has not been confused by the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] knows that it is the government that has been running the country for 17 years that is primarily responsible for this situation." 

Ibrahim Kahveci is unconvinced by the government's economic policies in liberal pro-government Karar: "The entire system is the problem. Taxes and fees increase the costs. The rent increases in shops, and the rental costs of the district market stalls are reflected in the price of goods. Transferring the goods has become a big cost in itself. And the result: If the government wants to stabilize food prices, the problems should be handled as a whole. In fact, the most urgent problem is to enable producers to earn money from their products. Otherwise, price suppression will put the farmers even in a more difficult situation and they may produce less in the new season. We are facing a very, very dangerous situation."

Kemal Ozturk is also concerned about the cost of the government's policy in pro-government Yeni Safak: "After talking to commissioners in the wholesale market hall I checked the internet to see the price of vegetables. Then I went to the municipality-run marketplaces and compared prices. If the municipality-run marketplaces buy the goods from the Kumluca wholesale market, they make no profit in the sales of some goods, and in some cases they lose money."

 

Iran media watch

 

'DECEPTIVE EUROPEANS': Most Iranian newspapers today lead with Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i's warning yesterday that officials must "not be deceived" by Europe, whose enmity with Iran is less apparent that the US. "Let officials not bring about problems for themselves and the nation by relying on Europe," hardline Javan's headline cited the Leader as saying. Moderate Qanun and hardline Keyhan highlighted the leader's emphasis on domestic capabilities in order to ensure that Iranian youth are able to "fire at will". In 2017, Khamenei controversially called on his supporters to "fire at will" when they see that government bodies are not functioning appropriately.

 

IMPEACHING ROWHANI: Several pro-reform newspapers have discussed a parliamentary motion to impeach President Hassan Rowhani, which has so far garnered 18 signatures. Ninety-six are required to summon him to parliament. Reformist E'temad highlighted that although the motion failed to get a considerable number of signatures, its initiators continued to push it forward and even published the text of the motion. E'temad speculated that those behind the motion have been promoting a plot to appoint a military figure in Rouhani's place. Moderate Besharat-e No published the text itself. Meanwhile, while reporting on President Rowhani's speech yesterday at a refinery opening ceremony, governmental Iran's headline quoted him as saying that "everybody should defend the government elected by the people".

 

TRUMP/VENEZUELA/BORDER WALL: The top foreign news story on broadcast media this morning was President Trump's call for the Venezuelan military to abandon President Nicolas Maduro and embrace the cause of opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido. "Trump, who failed to incite the Venezuelan people and army against their government, has warned Venezuelan army officers that their support for the government may risk their life," Channel One (IRTV1) said. Rolling news network IRINN said Trump threatened that "all options are on the table" in regard to Venezuela. English-language Press TV, meanwhile, led with protests against Trump's declaration of a state of emergency regarding the need to build a wall along the Mexico border.

 

PETROL SELF-SUFFICIENCY: Today's dailies also highlight that Iran does not need to import petrol any more, as the Oil Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh said at a refinery inauguration ceremony yesterday in Southern Hormozgan Province. Reporting on the story, hardline Javan's headline noted that the "The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) forged a key for the government to export petrol", as the IRGC Khatam-Anbia economic base built the refinery that was opened yesterday. Conservative Khorasan stressed the "timeliness" of petrol self-sufficiency given the intensification of U.S. economic pressure. Business daily Hadaf va Eqtesad said that U.S. sanctions on Iran have been defeated through the construction of this refinery.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Persian Twitter has thrown its weight behind Iranian Kurdish football player Voria Ghafuri following his summoning by the Sports Ministry for criticizing Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In an Instagram story, Ghafuri rebuked Zarif for remarking that "we [Iranians] are proud to be under pressure for supporting Palestine", saying that only "ordinary people" were in fact under pressure and not the country's elite. Relevant hashtags have been used over 31,000 times in the past 24 hours. Some praised Ghafuri for "not being indifferent" despite being a wealthy football player who is not under financial pressure. "It makes what he did a hundred times more valuable," said one user. Ghafuri's comments seemed to have drawn the ire of Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i. In a speech yesterday about the recent suicide attack that killed 27 IRGC personnel, Khamenei said: "Some people who take advantage of the country's security to work and play sport should know that it is martyrdom that ensures security". Ghafuri, who plays for the state-owned Tehran football club Esteghlal FC, was summoned by the Sports Ministry for questioning hours after Khamene'i's speech. One user said Ghafuri's comments had scared Khamene'i, and his summoning only served to prove that "you've reached the end of the line, Mr Dictator!"

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 06.11.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Occupation is bull

 

Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today that his agency has thwarted 480 Palestinian attacks in the last year. The Shin Bet's efforts, he said, were a major factor in the maintenance of a fragile calm between Israel and the Palestinians. Argaman also referred to 590 potential lone wolf attacks that the Shin Bet had prevented. Argaman said that Hamas branches in Gaza and Turkey have attempted to orchestrate attacks in the West Bank. He also mentioned similar efforts from Lebanon, presumably referring to Hezbollah. These foiled attempts are in addition to the ongoing Gaza border conflict and periodic rocket fire. There are reports that Israel and Hamas have reached a possible ceasefire deal, but Argaman warned the Knesset that the situation remains precarious.

Meanwhile, claims against Israel that it occupies the Palestinians are "nonsense", Prime Minister Netanyahu told his Likud Party on Sunday, claiming that other superpowers have occupied people and no one said a word. "Occupation is bull. Empires have conquered and replaced entire populations and no one is talking about it," Netanyahu said according to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth. What truly matters is strong diplomacy, Netanyahu added. "Power is key. Power changes everything in our policy with Arab countries." Netanyahu told his party colleagues that concessions are regarded as weakness in the Middle East, which do not bring about lasting change. Instead, "aligning Arab interests with Israel, based on Israel being a technological superpower must lead the way", he claimed. 

Russia's top diplomat on Monday accused Israel of breaching its commitment to inform Moscow before it carries out airstrikes in Syria, placing its military personnel in danger "on several occasions" and forcing Russia to respond in a "firm but contained manner." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's criticism came after Israel/Russia ties soured, following the September 17 downing of a Russian spy plane by Syrian forces during an Israeli air raid. Moscow's Defense Ministry had blamed Israel for the deaths of 15 servicemen on the plane, arguing that Israeli jets were hiding behind the Russian aircraft. Israel denies that claim. "Unfortunately, the Israeli side did not always strictly comply with its obligations , especially as regards the obligation to notify the Russian military about combat operations in Syrian territory," he told the Spanish-language El Pais on Monday.

Israel has told the Palestinian Authority that it could take tax revenues collected on Ramallah's behalf and send it to Gaza to offset money Mahmoud 'Abbas's government has threatened to withhold from the beleaguered Strip, a top Palestinian official said Monday. In the past several months, PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas has suggested on many occasions that the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership will cut all funds allocated to Gaza, if Hamas does not hand over control of the territory to the PA. "Last week, the Israeli side informed us that if we do not pay all funds allocated for the Gaza Strip, they will cut money from the taxes – they collect customs duties and taxes for us – and transfer them to Gaza," top Palestinian negotiator Sa'eb 'Erekat told a seminar in Ramallah.

Elsewhere, the state does not know who is behind the illegal outpost being erected in an abandoned army base in the Jordan Valley, state prosecutors told the court, adding that the Civil Administration will be demolishing illegal construction at the base. The state prosecution advised the High Court of Justice that following discussion at the Civil Administration, the decision was made to raze the illegally possessed buildings, but they still don't know who took improper possession of the base. Also on Monday, military prosecutors charged a soldier from the Home Front Command's rescue unit with assaulting a blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinian detainee. The indictment says the soldier struck the detainee at the Shaked outpost in the Northern West Bank. On Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces said that a demolition order was issued for the home of a Palestinian suspected of carrying out a shooting attack at a West Bank industrial park last month in which two Israelis were killed. The head of Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan, put out the order for the basement and ground floors of the building where Ashraf Na'alweh lived with his family in the Northern West Bank village of Shuweika, the military said. Those areas of the building will be rendered unusable. The development came after the military rejected an objection against the demolition filed by Na'alweh's family following an initial demolition order issued last month.

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday called an urgent meeting with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to discuss the soaring budget deficit that is threatening a planned increase in defense spending, Haaretz reported. The Finance Ministry announced Monday that there was a NIS 9 billion ($2.4 billion) deficit in the state budget, approximately 3.6 percent of the GDP, the highest rate in years and almost 1% more than the 2.5% cumulative deficit in September. Netanyahu, who earlier this year unveiled his "2030 Security Concept" calling for spending hundreds of millions of shekels to upgrade the Israeli army, convened a meeting with economic advisers after Sunday's cabinet meeting in an effort to free up money for defense spending. At that meeting, the Finance Ministry Director-General informed the prime minster there was little room in the budget to divert additional money to the military, noting the soaring deficit. Kahlon did not attend the meeting.

The Trump Administration has backed an Israeli plan to link Haifa with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states, hinting that it was in line with the U.S. peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, The Jerusalem Post reports. U.S. Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt Tweeted his support for the rail line as Israeli Minister of Transportation and Intelligence Israel Katz made a historic visit to Oman to present its details to an international transportation event, the IRU World Congress. "Today Transportation & Intelligence Minister Israel_Katz is in Oman at an international transportation event," Greenblatt Tweeted. "He will present a plan for the construction of a railway between Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia & the Gulf. Let's keep the dialogue going. These efforts support our efforts." Katz is expected to address the congress and participate in its panels, a first for an Israeli minister in Oman, which has no ties with Israel. The minister's office Tweeted that this was "the first time the United States has publicly supported the plan," called "Tracks for Regional Peace." The plan was developed by both Katz and the prime minister. A Middle East rail line would be a "dramatic development that may affect many countries in the region," Katz's office said. He has spent two years gaining supporters for the plan, including of some Arab officials in the region.

Finally, Iran's telecommunications minister accused Israel of a new cyberattack on the same day that U.S. sanctions (which were lifted by the 2015 nuclear deal) were re-imposed. This comes days after Iran said it had neutralized a new version of the Stuxnet virus. In a series of Tweets, the Telecommunication Minister blamed Israel for the attack, saying it targeted Iran's communications infrastructure and that Iran would sue for the cyberattack via international bodies. Iran greeted the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Monday with air defense drills and an acknowledgement from President Hassan Rowhani that the nation faces a "war situation," raising Mideast tensions as America's maximalist approach to the Islamic Republic takes hold.

 

 

BENNETT VERSUS LIEBERMAN: Yoaz Hendel in Yedioth Ahronoth explains that with polls showing Netanyahu strong, Bennett needs someone to blame and has picked Lieberman. But after the elections the two will remain bickering dwarfs overshadowed by a big, strong Likud.

"The campaign being waged by Naftali Bennett against Avigdor Lieberman is a farce. Politicians fight amongst themselves all the time. Sometimes the fights are real, sometimes they are beneficial to both sides. Deri and Lieberman are the living example of invented quarrels – Deri defends religious laws, Lieberman opposes, all hell breaks loose – and on the day after each side has gained a few votes.

In this case, the attacks against Lieberman look like a political campaign for the weak. Bennett is trying to differentiate himself, unsuccessfully, from Netanyahu's Likud. He is afraid to criticize Netanyahu, afraid to say out loud that his party is clean as a whistle while Netanyahu and some of his men are embroiled in investigations.

Bennett is afraid to say in meetings of the Habayit Hayehudi Party that Netanyahu is implementing left-wing policies in Gaza, and that he is willing to contain the occasional rocket fire, the incursions and infiltrations. He is also unwilling to talk about the negotiations that the Israeli government is conducting with a state that supports terrorism such as Qatar or with Hamas, and it makes no difference what you call it. Bennett is afraid because the polls show that Netanyahu is strong. Like others, he is waiting for the flood to pass. Making calculations of investigations and results, indictments and who will take over the right-wing. Meanwhile, until the Messiah comes or Mandelblit moves his butt, there is a need for someone on whom to put the blame – in this case, Lieberman.

Bennett sits in the cabinet and is responsible for what goes on there just like Lieberman. If the government's left-wing containment policy (and yes, it is leftist) displeases him, he can vote against it. If this is a 'terrible' situation and Israeli deterrence is eroding, he can at any given moment leave the government; at least threaten, so that something will change. Bennett could also have secured the death sentence for terrorists, or at least compelled the government to accept the Shamgar report, so that additional terrorists would not be released soon. With all due respect to the laws meant to circumvent the High court, what could be more salient for Israel's citizens than the security in the South and the deterrence of Hamas?

Lieberman is not an innocent little lamb. What Bennett is doing now, Lieberman did without any qualms to all past defense ministers. In the cynicism index, Lieberman is way ahead of Bennett. The difference between them is in the potential. Lieberman is far from being a candidate for prime minister, there is no scenario (including unification of parties) in which he becomes head of the right-wing. Bennett, on the other hand, has what it takes to run for prime minister. He is talented, not corrupt, understands politics, and his heart is where most Israelis are on most subjects – a few centimeters to the right of center: Conservative risk taker, a security hawk, moderate in matters of religion and state. Bennett has political potential that is wasted for fear of challenging Netanyahu. The campaign against Lieberman only illustrates this.

In Bennett's first term as head of Habayit Hayehudi, Netanyahu turned him into an equal opponent. Bennett wanted to supply him with a tailwind, Netanyahu saw him as a dangerous rival, and turned him into the great right-wing political hope by attacking him incessantly. Netanyahu has that ability – to attack and promote political players. This is what he is doing these days to Gideon Sa'ar, who is keeping mum. The conspiracy theory and the law named after him are molding him into a possible heir.

Netanyahu is no longer making this mistake with Bennett. He is indifferent to his embrace. Ignores the massive support from every suggestion he puts on the table, from every whim; acts as if he is impervious to the fact that Bennett does not dare say a word concerning the investigations or the problems surrounding the prime minister. Worst of all for Bennett: Netanyahu no longer needs Habayit Hayehudi. In the eyes of the public, Netanyahu is more right-wing than Bennett, and there is no one to say the emperor is naked.

Perhaps all those who fear Netanyahu are right. Perhaps it is better to keep your head down, wait for the wave to pass, pray to Mandelblit quietly and in closed rooms, while publicly singing Netanyahu's praises. If they are wrong, after the next elections you will find a large and strong Likud, and two political dwarfs bickering amongst themselves all the way to a party that will barely pass the electoral threshold."

Ends…

 

NETANYAHU'S NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: Amir Oren in Walla! stresses that the PM is scared of a mutiny in Likud. His rational for the Gideon Sa'ar bill is the possibility that President Rivlin will encourage representatives of the different parties to conspire against him, exploiting the legal loophole that will allow his adversary to oust him.

"Binyamin Netanyahu is afraid of mutiny in Likud. In all his nightmares, most of the MKs from his party rally around one of his adversaries, for example – Gideon Sa'ar. There is no precedent of mutiny in Likud against a PM in office, but that does not comfort Netanyahu. He is haunted by fears. Julius of Caesarea sees in every flash the glare of Brutus's cold knife.

Since he does not trust the loyalty of members of his faction, and for some reason suspects that their attitude towards him is as functional as his towards them, he aspires to turn an internal Likud matter into a change in the law. With the help of his close associate David Amsalem, Netanyahu, after nearly three decades in the Knesset, has detected a dangerous loophole in the law. If it is not plugged, Sa'ar could use it to infiltrate into the President's Residence and flank Netanyahu from there, with the enthusiastic support of Reuven Rivlin.

The law requires the president, after elections or death/resignation of a prime minister, to consult with representatives of the Knesset factions. At the end of the consultations, the president appoints an agreed upon MK to form a government. The most important tool a president needs when considering who to task with forming a government is the ability to count to 61. There may be crises during the negotiations, and the conflicting demands of the potential partners may not be settled, but presidents have never propelled the country into a prolonged governmental crisis only for slapping a political opponent and petting a friends' ego.

According to Netanyahu's nightmare scenario, assuming that the makeup of the next Knesset is more or less the same as the current one, representatives of the factions participating in the outgoing government will come to Rivlin and talk to him, harboring no malicious intent towards Netanyahu. Assuming that there is no legal barrier in the form of an indictment and a High Court of Justice ruling, they will recommend to Rivlin that he again task Netanyahu with forming the government. Ostensibly, game over, because at that point Netanyahu has 61 MKs recommending him. But in Netanyahu's nightmare, sly Rivlin does not despair. He tries to convince Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, and the rest of the coalition parties to choose Gideon Sa'ar. And they, out of stupidity or because they are partners in the conspiracy, will go along with him and say – sure, why not, Sa'ar will do just fine, even better.

In order to prevent such a development, which, according to Netanyahu, could distort the will of the voter, this loophole must be plugged. The president will be stripped of his discretionary powers and will not be allowed to task anyone but Netanyahu with forming the government. There will be no government without Likud at its center, and only the head of Likud will be PM.

In Netanyahu's eyes, the President – well, Rivlin, anyway - is superfluous. Why consult with him? A meeting between the heads of the parties, at the end of which an announcement of Netanyahu's recycling is posted, will do nicely. Democracy at its best, without checks and balances. Because of an internal Likud problem, or one man and his wife's persecution craze, a Basic Law will be changed, even though a decision in the party institutions would suffice."

Ends…

 

DESPITE IT ALL, SAUDI ARABIA IS A PARTNER: Prof. Eyal Zisser in Israel Hayom claims that following Khashoggi's murder Riyadh has become a global punching bag, but those punches only strengthen Iran, and Israel should mobilize all its influence to solve the crisis between the Saudis and the West.

"All at once, Saudi Arabia has turned from a courted ally into a leper state, which everyone is renouncing. In Israel, too, there are those who advocate keeping a healthy distance from Saudi Arabia, because it does not comply with the values that distinguish dark dictatorships from enlightened Western states, and also because it has been revealed to be unreliable at a time of crisis.

There is a lot of hypocrisy in the attack on Saudi Arabia, particularly in view of the fact that the initiator and leader of the attack on the Saudis is the President of Turkey, Erdogan, who wiped out democracy and the free press in his country. The Turkish President does love his whims and one-upmanship games, which dictate, not very successfully, his country's foreign policy. Herein lies the problem. For in a better world ,Turkey, as a progress-loving country, was supposed to lead the region in its many challenges and serve as a reliable ally of the United States, and no less important – a point of support for a regional alignment against Iran. But Erdogan chose a path that distanced him from Arab Sunni countries, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and caused his ties with Israel to deteriorate into crisis.

The vacuum left by Turkey must therefore be filled by Saudi Arabia, which did not hesitate to stand up to the Iranians and their allies, even at moments when the American administration turned a cold shoulder towards her. Saudi Arabia is not a problem-free country, and there is merit in the argument that it is weaker than it seems to the outside observer. There is an exaggeration in the attempt to portray the Saudis, as well as the rest of the Gulf States, as omnipotent regional powers, with whom if Israel links up all her problems will be solved and she will be able to establish a strong front against the ayatollahs, and perhaps even promote a political settlement with the Palestinians.

Like Jordan in the era of King Hussein, Saudi Arabia has a lot of power. Perhaps in Washington or Europe they regret that Iran is not the Axis state on which Western interests in the region hinge, as was the case during the Shah's time. But today Iran is an ally of Russia, serving and promoting Russia's expansionist ambitions in the region, while Turkey is subject to the whims of a frenzied and jumpy president. In contrast, Saudi Arabia's conduct radiates stability and continuity. With all due respect or disrespect to the heir to the throne, MbS, this is a regime that never allowed a single person to lead it and knew how to balance the whims of its rulers.

The growing relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia must be examined with open eyes. One should not be overly impressed by the apparent power emanating from the Kingdom, but also not underestimate the sources of its strength. As of this moment, Israel and the U.S. have no other partner in the region, trustworthy, and stable as Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis erred when they assassinated the journalist on Turkish soil and as a result, they have now become a global punching bag. But punches will not transform Saudi Arabia, like other places in the world, into a paradise of free press and human rights. On the contrary, they will only strengthen regional forces such as Iran, which have openly killed not only journalists and members of the opposition, but lately also half a million Syrians and whose plans for Israel are well known. Israel would do well to mobile its influence, especially in the United States, to help find a solution to the crisis in Western-Saudi relations."

Ends…

 

ISRAEL AND MBS: Yoni Ben-Menachem on News1 believes that Israel has broken its silence on the Khashoggi murder out of fear that international retaliation will thwart efforts to contain Iran's aggression. The U.S. must take into consideration Israel's security interests and the regional implications of sanctions against Saudi Arabia.

"The Khashoggi affair has thus far incurred benefits for two countries hostile to Israel and Saudi Arabia - Iran and Turkey. Turkey, led by President Erdogan, is competing with Saudi Arabia for the leadership of the Sunni world, and supports the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, while Saudi Arabia views these organizations as a threat to the existence of the Arab regimes.

President Erdogan, aided by Qatar's propaganda trumpet in the Arab world al-Jazeera, is trying with all his might to get Saudi King Salman bin 'Abdelaziz to oust his son, the crown-prince, and weaken Saudi Arabia's position in the Muslim world. He is threatening to reveal the details of Khashoggi's assassination and who ordered the assassination. According to Arab sources, there is a balance of terror between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Saudi Arabia has proof of Turkish assistance to ISIS in Syria, assistance to Iran in breaking the sanctions, huge money laundering through Turkish banks, and other sensitive personal information concerning President Erdogan.

The new head of the CIA, Gina Haspel, recently visited Turkey and received Turkey's intelligence evidence against the Saudi royal family in the Khashoggi affair, but it seems that President Trump is continuing to protect Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. Except for revoking the travel visas of those Saudis who were arrested by the Saudi authorities for their involvement in Khashoggi's murder, the U.S. administration has not yet implemented any sanction against the Saudi royal family. The White House is making an effort to reduce the role of the Saudi royal family in the affair. President Trump is doing everything possible to underscore the great economic importance of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia with regard to oil, arms deals and the U.S. labor market.

Opponents of the Saudi royal family have suddenly become human rights defenders. This is typical Middle Eastern hypocrisy, starting with Erdogan and Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, who support terrorist organizations and ignore the serious human rights violations of Hamas and the PA security services. They ignore the violent measures taken by Hamas and the PA against Palestinian journalists who dare to utter a hint of criticism.

Prime Minister Netanyahu defined the Khashoggi murder as a 'terrible act', as it indeed is. This cruel act must be dealt with, and those responsible should be punished with all the severity of the law. However, Israel's supreme security interest is to combat Iran's hostile intentions and its plans to destroy Israel. This interest is a national interest, more important to Israel than any other. This is an existential threat to the entire nation. The ayatollahs' regime is working to bring another Holocaust to the Jewish people through nuclear weapons, and it declares this intention openly day and night.

Opponents of the Crown Prince accuse him of embroiling Saudi Arabia in a war in Yemen, imposing a political and economic embargo on Qatar and holding the Lebanese prime minister under house arrest in Riyadh. They also accuse him of under-the-table normalization with Israel and of promoting Trump's deal of the century. In the media and social networks in the Arab world, many reports have circulated concerning secret meetings between Mohammed bin Salman and senior Israeli officials, including a meeting between him and Prime Minister Netanyahu and a secret visit to Tel Aviv.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that elements hostile to Israel, who want to sabotage the political process and normalization with the Arab states, are the same elements that are working to politically eliminate the heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman. Meanwhile, the Saudi royal family is withstanding the pressure and the status of the crown prince is still stable, despite the fact that his image has been tarnished badly. Israel is concerned that the stability of the Saudi regime will be undermined. The regime's destabilization is liable to lead to the rise of extremist elements who will control the advanced weaponry of the Saudi army.

In the wake of the Khashoggi affair, Turkey's regional status has strengthened, and there has been a rapprochement between Erdogan and Trump. Israel is also concerned about possible damage to the rule of President Sissi in Egypt. The Saudi royal family provides important economic and political support to Egypt, and the undermining of the Saudi king's regime, if heavy sanctions are imposed, could adversely affect the stability of the Egyptian president's rule. It is very important that the U.S. maintain the regional balance of power when deciding on its response to the murder of Khashoggi. This should be a response that takes into account the regional implications and the possible impact on the security of the State of Israel. Turkey should not be bolstered at Saudi Arabia's expense, especially if President Trump wants to promote his so-called Deal of the Century."

Ends…

 

THE LIMITS OF ROMANCE: Evan Gottesman in Haaretz contends that despite warm receptions in Oman and Abu Dhabi, Israel should not overstate the strength of its Gulf alliances. A common enemy like Iran can produce photo-ops and covert collaboration – but that is not normalization.

"The last few weeks have seen a flurry of apparent breakthroughs in Israel's foreign relations with the Arab world. A week ago, Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited Oman, an Arab monarchy with which Israel lacks formal diplomatic ties. The following weekend, Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev was present at an international judoka tournament in Abu Dhabi where Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, was played for Israeli medal winners, a sharp departure from the Egyptian judoka who snubbed the offer of a handshake by his Israeli competitor in 2016. Days after, Emirati officials accompanied Regev on a tour of their capital's Grand Mosque, although the UAE, like 29 other Arab and Muslim states, does not recognize Israel. Minister of Communications Minister Ayoub Kara was also in the Emirates, although his trip was for a meeting of a United Nations agency.

Some have leveraged these developments to question the axiom that Israel's international standing will suffer as the country drifts further and further away from a negotiated two-state solution. The Mitvim Institute's recently released 2018 Israeli Foreign Policy Index showed that 49 percent of Israelis think a breakthrough with the Arab states is achievable even absent movement on the Palestinian track. On Wednesday, U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt also praised this apparent progress. 

Such sentiment – that Israel's relations with the Arab world are flourishing, rather than being diminished, by the lack of progress in resolving the conflict with the Palestinians – seems to gain traction whenever a Gulf Arab state makes even the most basic gesture toward the Jewish state. But it was never quite so simple. Israel's position in the world is stronger today than it was for most of the country's history. Netanyahu deserves some credit for this, but the groundwork for this shift occurred over two decades ago.

The Arab League boycotted Israel from the country's founding, reaffirming its intransigent stance under the 1967 Khartoum Declaration. The Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites (except Romania) severed relations with Israel following the Six Day War, and 25 African states broke ties after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Spain and Portugal did not recognize Israel until 1986 and 1977 respectively, after the collapse of fascist governments in both countries. Major powers like India and the People's Republic of China did not establish official relations with Israel until the 1990s.

The Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict especially, only have an immediate impact on a small number of countries. Israel's relative isolation during its formative years was reflective of Arab states and Soviet influence, as well as communist, anti-colonial, and non-aligned political commitments in developing nations. The end of the Cold War rendered these alliances obsolete, opening Israel to the world. This was not the work of any one Israeli leader, but a side-effect of broader geopolitical events.

But the Arab and Muslim countries remained obstinate. Their quarrel with Israel was direct, not an extension of the East-West superpower struggle. Ultimately, Israel's victory in the 1967 war removed the Jewish state's total erasure as an objective for all but the most radical regimes, namely Syria and Iraq (later joined by Iran after the Islamic Revolution). But it also opened up the question of Palestinian statehood on the newly occupied territories, especially after the 1980s: The catastrophe in Lebanon, the First Intifada, and the Palestinian declaration of independence. Progress on the Palestinian front would yield progress in regional integration. On the flipside, stagnation would keep the Arab world at arm's length, and Israel's ties with Egypt and Jordan would never evolve past a cold peace.

The heady days of the Oslo peace process saw officials in the Labor governments of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres as guests in many countries that lacked relations with Israel. Like Netanyahu, Peres, and Rabin visited Oman, but not just Oman. Morocco and Indonesia also welcomed Israeli leaders. Bahrain hosted an Israeli minister in 1994. As prime minister, Peres also traveled to Qatar.

It's useful to juxtapose the circumstances informing Israeli foreign policy advancements in the 1990s versus today's developments. Rabin and Peres were riding the wave of optimism surrounding a reinvigorated peace process. That diplomacy yielded real, lasting improvements. For instance, in 1994, Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council stopped enforcing most elements of the Arab League boycott and ceased urging other countries to do the same.

In a way, Netanyahu is instrumentalizing the products of a peace process he vehemently opposed two decades ago and has partly helped upend today. But Netanyahu has also benefited from regional tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its allies. While the confrontation with Iran takes clear precedence over the Palestinian question in terms of immediate impact and importance to the Arab states, it will not last forever and so its benefits for Israel will likely prove ephemeral. A relationship that is a function of present circumstances is the basis for a tactical arrangement, not a lasting peace.

Recall that before Israel destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, Iran attempted to do the same thing. Israel coordinated its attack on their shared enemy with Tehran, and even continued arms sales to the Islamic Republic into the 1980s – well after the fall of the Shah. Where are the fruits of that alliance today?

A common enemy can produce some meetings and covert collaboration, but only a final status agreement with the Palestinians can inspire normalization. Jordan's recent termination of leases on two small territories to Israel under the 1994 peace treaty, a concession to the country's massive anti-Israel movement, is evidence of that. Moreover, minor steps taken with hereditary dictatorships will do nothing to address ambivalence toward Israel among Western audiences or popular boycott campaigns. While BDS has little tangible impact on Israel, anti-Israel campaigns understandably perturb Israelis who crave normalcy.

Despite the real gains made by Israel's government over the weekend and in previous years, Israel's position vis-a-vis the Arab world is anything but normal. Playing a country's national anthem at an international sporting event signals the most basic level of decorum, opening a trade office is pretty standard fare, and leaders exchange visits regularly.

Indeed, some of what is being touted as progress with the Arab states has little to do with the Arabs themselves. Ayoub Kara's visit to the Emirates, as well as this week's visit to Oman by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, are for conferences organized by multilateral institutions, not their host governments. And Regev's time in the UAE came after the International Judo Federation threatened to cancel last weekend's competition if it did not treat all participating countries equally, a hazard which would undermine the Emirates' aspiration to be a global cultural hub.

That right-wing Israeli leaders and their supporters now fawn over the Gulf states for undertaking relatively simple steps only underscores the enormous room for growth that still remains. Israeli leaders could exploit the situation with Iran and recent minor openings to build Arab state support on the back of progress toward a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians. But absent momentum with the Palestinians, sustainable growth with the rest of the Arab world will remain elusive."

Ends…

 

ROOTS OF EVIL: Naomi Linder Kahn in The Jerusalem Post argues that under the guise of "agricultural assistance", the PA is taking over Area C with European financial support.

"In the 1993 Oslo Accords, the State of Israel empowered the PLO to establish a Palestinian Authority to oversee autonomous Arab governance in parts of Judea and Samaria. Despite the fact that, in practice, many of the Oslo Accords' clauses were never activated and other elements are no longer relevant, the division of jurisdictional authority between Areas A (full Palestinian jurisdiction), B (PA civil control, Israeli security), and C (full Israeli jurisdiction), remains in force. 

In 2009, Salam Fayyad, former prime minister of the PA, publicized his program for the unilateral creation of 'an independent, fully autonomous Arab state on all of the territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as per the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.' The Fayyad Plan is based on de facto annexation of Area C, with the underlying assumption that Areas A and B have already been 'taken care of' by the Oslo Accords. 

The implementation of this program of creeping annexation has been, and continues to be, carried out on two parallel tracks. The first involves cooperation with Israel: The PA submits requests to the relevant Israeli authorities for approval of 'special priority' construction projects; generally, international funding for these projects is contingent upon a 'seal of approval' from Israel. Despite the often-repeated claims of anti-Zionist NGOs, many thousands of housing units and other building projects have been approved by the Israeli government for the Palestinian sector. 

The second track, which is far more widespread, is the creation of facts on the ground, through extensive illegal construction and development, without coordination with Israel. The projects in this illegal track are planned and executed according to a very clear, systematic, master plan that aims to create territorial contiguity for the future Palestinian state while disrupting the growth and contiguity of Israeli communities. 

Over the past number of years, the illegal track has become not only more pronounced but more ingenious, using agricultural work to establish facts on the ground – in violation of the law in force in this region; in violation of the Oslo Accords, which stipulate that the State of Israel has sole jurisdiction over this territory; and in violation of international law. 

Although it was a partner to the Oslo Accords, in recent years the EU has actively funded many of the PA's illegal activities in Area C, contributing to the projects that undermine the accords by taking unilateral steps to create a Palestinian state encompassing all of Judea and Samaria. Since the publication of the Fayyad Plan, the EU has built more than 2,000 structures in Area C for the Palestinian population, creating or supporting dozens of illegal settlement clusters, without requesting or receiving construction permits or coordinating these projects with the relevant Israeli authorities. The flagship outpost of these projects is Khan al-Ahmar. Recently, the EU made a commitment to desist from further illegal building in Area C. But rather than abandon the goals of this illegal activity, the EU simply switched tactics. 

The law in force in Area C of Judea and Samaria is comprised of many layers, including Ottoman law, Mandatory law, Jordanian law, military rule, international law, as well as legislative acts of Knesset. In general, however, the essential underpinnings of property law in Area C rest upon Ottoman law. According to Ottoman law (and Israeli Supreme Court decisions that continue to enforce it), uncultivated land belongs to the sovereign – a principle known elsewhere as 'eminent domain.' The case of administered territory is no different; the State of Israel has sole jurisdiction. Additionally, some of the land in Area C is classified as 'survey land' – tracts that are not registered as privately owned, which the Israeli government is in the process of regulating and registering as state land.

However – and herein lies the rub – under Section 78 of the Ottoman Legal Code, a private individual may be granted rights akin to ownership of agricultural land if he has held and cultivated the land in question for a period of time (the precise length of time required is dictated by the nature of the land parcel in question). 

Thus, a person who poaches land and uses it for agricultural purposes may claim ownership or other rights, simply by claiming to have worked the land for a relatively short period. Activities carried out under the Roots Project exploit this loophole in Ottoman law to great advantage. To make matters worse, much of the so-called 'agricultural projects' presently being carried out by the PA in Area C– erecting fences and walls, excavating with heavy machinery, creating roads and more – requires building permits, which have never been obtained. In contrast, the regulations that require permits for work of this kind are meticulously enforced in the Jewish sector, through military orders issued by the commanding officer in the area. 

The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) is the main operational arm of the agricultural front of the Fayyad Plan. Despite UAWC's overt and covert ties to the Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization 'PFLP – Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine;' despite UAWC's active support for the BDS movement; and despite UAWC's judicial, media, and diplomatic campaigns to prevent the IDF and the Civil Administration from acting against the illegal land seizures it carries out, the UAWC is funded, to the tune of millions, by direct and indirect donations from the EU, the UN, and the governments of France, Norway, Holland, and Germany. These same governments and organizations are among Israel's most vocal critics. 

In the course of monitoring PA/EU efforts to seize control of Area C, Regavim's staff identified 247 new agricultural sites and 181 new roads, all of which we investigated and mapped out through meticulous analysis of aerial photos taken between 2013-2017. We presented our findings to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's subcommittee on Judea and Samaria, along with practical and comprehensive recommendations for combating this threat. 

The damage being caused by the 'Roots Program' cannot be addressed as a case-by-case, localized problem. The only way to meet this challenge is with clear, decisive action on the part of policy makers, who must implement a comprehensive response that acknowledges the strategic dangers to Israel's future. Sadly, the State of Israel remains virtually absent from the scene of the crime. To date, no military, law enforcement, or diplomatic steps have been taken to prevent this de facto annexation, and the Civil Administration allows the Palestinians and their European co-conspirators to effectively seize more and more strategically vital land. If the government of Israel does not come to its senses soon, the Roots Project, the PA's master plan for overtaking Area C, will take root, and the facts it creates on the ground will be irreversible."

Ends…

 

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MIDEAST MIRROR 06.11.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

U.S. MIDTERM ELECTIONS: Ismail Kaplan maintains that the U.S. is facing the moment of truth in pro-government Turkiye: "There are elections in the U.S. today for one-third of the House of Representatives and the full Senate. In other words, this is a very important test for U.S. President Trump. If the Democrats maintain their 49 seats and add one more, they will win a majority in the Senate, and the opportunity to impeach Trump based on allegations that he committed 'treason, bribery, etc.' will be on the cards. Now, let us see: What kind of gains and losses the Iran embargo will bring Trump? That is the moment of truth..."

Zulal Kalkandelen believes that the Americans have been motivated to vote in nationalist opposition Cumhuriyet: "Two weeks prior to the 2016 elections, only one-third of the Americans thought their votes would be counted correctly. Then, there were the allegations that Russians had interfered in the elections. It is not easy to convince people to vote under such circumstances. However, the hatred towards Trump in some parts of society is so great that some say they would no longer be friends with those who fail to vote. In the end, polarization in society and the desire to get rid of Trump seem to have worked."

 

U.S./RUSSIA/MIDDLE EAST: Deniz Gokce notes Russia's growing role in the Middle East at Washington's expense in pro-government Aksam: "In May, the U.S. announced it would prevent Iran's oil sales. Under those circumstances, Russia and Saudi Arabia brought down oil prices. When U.S. restrictions on Iranian oil sales proved to be invalid, this added to Russia's prestige in the Middle East, due to its role as an influential country and because of the agreements between Moscow and Iran and Syria's support. It is still unclear what the U.S. can do at this point!"

 

OPPOSITION POLITICS: Oral Calislar takes aim at the opposition in centrist tabloid Posta: "The opposition's way of acting is also problematic in Turkey. Its prevailing rhetoric refers to the government as worse than an enemy. It is impossible to say that this fury-filled language genuinely reflects tough opposition, and what is striking is the prevalence of a mood that can best be summed up as, 'We wish the economy would go down, that there was a coup and chaos, and that country would be derailed, so that we can be saved from the government'."

Musa Piroglu calls for a new form of struggle in pro-Kurdish opposition Yeni Yasam: "The naked truth is that if the left continues as it is, Erdogan's 15-year government will face no obstacle. Nobody has the right to be carried away by the unnecessary optimism that international relations and the economic crisis could topple the presidency. It has become obligatory to create a structure that could awaken the class movement and the masses that have no option but to struggle due to the pressure. This is a responsibility that cannot be delayed until tomorrow." 

Sabahattin Onkibar paints a grim picture for the opposition in ultra-nationalist opposition Aydinlik: "MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] Chair Devlet Bahceli and CHP [main opposition Republican People's Party] Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu have guaranteed Erdogan's victory even in the 2023 elections by their mere existence. So, you may ask, what about after 2023? The period of [Erdogan's] son-in-law [Treasury and Economy Minister] Berat Albayrak will begin, until God knows when. I am neither a pessimist nor a doomsayer; I am just letting everyone know in advance. You will all see; after the March 2019 local elections, Turkey will be officially – not de facto – an AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] state."

 

Iran media watch

 

SANCTIONS: Iranian President Hassan Rowhani's comments yesterday on U.S. sanctions were a leading topic in today's press. He was speaking to Economy Ministry staff shortly after the U.S. administration imposed a wide range of fresh sanctions on Iran. "We will overcome the sanctions", official Iran daily and hardline Javan quoted Rowhani as saying in their front-page headlines. Moderate Qanun wrote: "We must overcome the sanctions and we will do so." Pro-reform Mardom Salari, Arman, and Hamdeli quoted Rowhani as saying that Iran will negotiate with the U.S. only "if it respects its own promises". Centrist Jomhuri-e Eslami quoted Rowhani as saying, "We will defeat Trump like we did Saddam", an allusion to the 1980-88 war with Iraq. Meanwhile, broadcast media highlighted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi's comment that "nothing new will happen". Araqchi said that the only country supporting the new U.S. sanctions is Israel and that this means Iran will overcome this obstacle.

 

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENTS: English-language Press TV only reported about the sanctions in the second half of its morning newscasts and instead led with regional developments in Yemen, the Palestinian, and Egypt. "The UN Chief's Spokesman Stephane Dujarric has expressed concern over the escalation of fights in al-Hudaydah and the humanitarian crisis," Press TV reported.

 

AIR DEFENSE DRILL: Iran is holding an air defense drill titled "Defenders of the Sky of Guardianship 97". The war game is being held with the collaboration of Khatam al-Anbia (The Last Prophet) Air Defense Force, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC's) Air Force, and the Army's Air Force in an area spanning over 500,000 square kilometers. Rolling news channel IRINN showed the Iranian Army's Deputy Commander Habibollah Sayyari saying that all weapons and equipment used in the drill are domestically manufactured. Channel One showed another army commander Rear Admiral Mahmoud Mousavi saying that air defense systems downed all drones with "almost 100 percent precision".

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Contrary to signals sent by print and broadcast media showing Iran's rhetoric in overcoming the sanctions, social media users expressed their concern about their potential impact. Thousands of Iranians expressed shock at the scale of the sanctions that target 50 banks and their subsidiaries, the nation's flagship carrier Iran Air, and 200 members of the shipping industry and vessels. More than 700 individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft are now on the sanctions list. "Do you know what this predicament means? It means the regime will not change its policies without sanctions and with the sanctions we will be adversely affected," a user Tweeted, sharing a similar sentiment with many Iranians.

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 06.11.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-Mixed signals and brave stances

2-Netanyahu defends, the Saudis procrastinate

 

1-Mixed signals and brave stances

 

In both Tehran and Washington, there are those who still tend towards the option of negotiation and dialogue and would rather avoid policies that seek decisive victories, militarization, and 'bone-breaking.' They will not stand aside in silence as they see both their countries sliding toward the bottom of a dark abyss. And in their effort to avoid such an outcome, they will receive backing from an international community, which, while not sympathetic to Iran, does not agree with Trump's rash and aggressive positions and policies. There is another side to the image of U.S./Iranian relations whose main features have yet to be fully drawn, but that still raises its head from among the folds of the fiery statements emanating from the two administrations' hawks and conservatives--'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Jordanian ad-Dustour

What would really remain of the deterrent effect of this new package of sanctions if the process unfolds and the exemptions were to expand exponentially? Moreover, did the first installment of U.S. sanctions and the overall strategy of sanctions imposed on Iran for many long years succeed in achieving their aims – namely, to force Iran to abandon its nuclear program completely (which was the declared aim) and alter the nature of Iran's political regime by exacerbating its daily livelihood difficulties (which was the real aim)? The answer, of course, is 'No,' as witnessed by 19 previous packages of sanctions. They succeeded in aggravating the Iranian citizens' livelihood problems, in fact; but they did not weaken the regime as much as consolidate its domination domestically and expand its influence regionally, to say nothing of strengthening its hardline conservatives and ayatollahs--pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi

We hope that the Iranian people and government will not offer any concessions to the U.S./Israeli alliance. We hope they will stand up to the blockade and learn from the sad lessons of Iraq and Libya. For, if the course of concessions ever begins, it will only end in invasion and occupation. But we are confident that the Iranian leadership, which astonished the six major powers during the nuclear negotiations, is fully aware of this fact. Trump fears Iran because it is a strong country that possesses an arsenal of missiles and military equipment that can destroy his allies, his bases, and his forces in the Gulf region. This is why he is resorting to a blockade in the hope that the Iranian people will rebel against their government and topple the regime. But the U.S. president forgets that this country lived for forty years under blockade without ever raising the white flags of surrender. We have no doubt whatsoever that it will not do so now-- 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com

 

Despite the hostile rhetoric emanating from Washington and Tehran regarding the latest installment of U.S. sanctions on Iran, there may be another side to this picture, argues a leading Jordanian commentator. For the U.S. administration realizes that sanctions will not compel Iran to surrender, and Iran is aware that the sanctions will harm it in the long run, which is why both sides may be seeking a back channel for dialogue. Sanctions may hurt Iran's economy, but they will not succeed in altering the regime's behavior, maintains the editorial in a Qatari-owned pan-Arab daily. It is difficult to see how Iran's oil exports will fall to zero when the U.S. has exempted major industrial powers from the sanctions. Iran will succeed in withstanding the sanctions regardless of how harsh they may be, insists the editor-in-chief of an online pan-Arab daily. But it is unclear whether the U.S.'s Arab allies and Israel can stand their ground if Iran were to retaliate against any military attack on it via its regional allies.

 

TAKING NOTE OF THE SIGNALS: "In the heat of mutual accusations and threats between Tehran and Washington, and with their verbal exchanges reaching unprecedented levels of tension and escalation, no one seems to have noted the signs that could open the door to options other than confrontation, and that keep the possibility of reaching accords and understandings at the negotiating table alive," writes 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Tuesday's Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.

This is the result of two things:

- The first has to do with the U.S. administration, which undoubtedly realizes that bringing Iran's oil exports down to 'zero' is impossible, that the 'net' of sanctions it has imposed on Iran is ripped in more than one place, and that President Trump may leave the White House before Tehran raises the white flag of surrender – as we said in yesterday's article. [See Mideast Mirror, Section B, 05/11/2018]. And the last thing that Trump and his administration want is to head towards a fourth Gulf war. So what is to be done? What options does the administration have if it becomes clear that Iran is once again able to meet the challenge of sanctions, as it did when they were even more comprehensive and effective?

- The second reason has to do with Iran. For even if defiance, dismissal of the sanctions, and confidence in its ability to defeat on Washington has dominated its discourse, Rowhani's government (with Khamene'i's authority behind it) is also fully aware that it will be difficult to bear the sanctions' heavy burden for a long time. This could also have dire consequences in the medium and long-term. Moreover, Tehran's regional influence is facing real challenges after rising to unprecedented levels in recent years.

In light of these 'difficulties', both sides have issued signals that are worth noting and pursuing. Trump has repeatedly said that he is waiting for a phone call from the Iranians to start new negotiations without any preconditions, thus seemingly completely ignoring [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo's twelve points. Meanwhile, Iran's smiling Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has told the Japanese News Agency Kyodo of a single precondition for resuming negotiations with the 'Great Satan' – namely, that they should be conducted on the basis of mutual respect!

At the same time, reports continue to come in of indirect negotiations via numerous mediators, including the Sultanate of Oman, in order to soften the sharp edges of the two countries' positions. Some have explained the sudden development in Muscat's relations with Tel Aviv by placing it within this context, despite all the talk of an Omani mediation between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Relations between the two countries will pass through a phase of arm-twisting that will be painful to Iran, the international community, and the region in particular. It is difficult to argue that an imminent and genuine easing of tension will occur in this file. However, it may not be too long before Trump's positions and policies do a surprise U-turn, as has been his wont. Iran realizes this, and every now and then issues statements and expresses positions that could make it easier for Trump to do so.

The latest such statement came from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Deputy-Commander, who suddenly and without any preliminaries said that his country's military presence in Syria was not permanent and that it does not aspire to such a presence. True, this came in the context of denying any 'strategic divergence' between Iran and Russia in and over Syria, but it is also useful as a message of good intentions for Washington's 'remote sensing' centers to pick up.

To this one should add that in both Tehran and Washington, there are those who still tend towards the option of negotiation and dialogue and would rather avoid policies that seek decisive victories, militarization, and 'bone-breaking.' They will not stand aside in silence as they see both their countries sliding toward the bottom of a dark abyss. And in their effort to avoid such an outcome, they will receive backing from an international community, which, while not sympathetic to Iran, does not agree with Trump's rash and aggressive positions and policies.

"There is another side to the image of U.S./Iranian relations whose main features have yet to be fully drawn, but that still raises its head from among the folds of the fiery statements emanating from the two administrations' hawks and conservatives," concludes Rintawi.

End…

 

TRUMP'S BOAST: "On the occasion of the second installment of U.S. sanctions re-imposed on Iran after Washington has withdrawn from the international agreement on Tehran's nuclear program, President Donald Trump has boasted that these sanctions have already had 'a destructive effect on Iranian economy,' noting that the value of the national currency has fallen by 70%, inflation has risen by 37%, and that 'recession has begun to threaten the Iranian economy'," writes Tuesday's editorial in the Qatari-owned, London-based, pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi.

These and other direct effects may have really occurred; in fact, they are likely to worsen after the second installment of sanctions has begun, especially since they will affect the oil, energy, banking, shipping, and ship-building sectors, and include more than 600 Iranian figures and institutions this time around. The new installment also includes further restrictions and punitive measures against any international company that deals with the Iranian economy.

But the strange thing is that while U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declared that the aim of the new package of sanctions is to drive Iranian oil exports down to zero, he has also decided to exempt eight countries from any restrictions on importing Iranian oil. After it has become clear that this list includes China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey, it is possible to ask: How can there be zero oil exports in light of the giant industrial economies of countries such as China, Japan, and India, for example? And what would really remain of the deterrent effect of this new package of sanctions if the process unfolds and the exemptions were to expand exponentially?

Moreover, did the first installment of U.S. sanctions and the overall strategy of sanctions imposed on Iran for many long years succeed in achieving their aims – namely, to force Iran to abandon its nuclear program completely (which was the declared aim) and alter the nature of Iran's political regime by exacerbating its daily livelihood difficulties (which was the real aim)?

The answer, of course, is 'No,' as witnessed by 19 previous packages of sanctions. They succeeded in aggravating the Iranian citizens' livelihood problems, in fact; but they did not weaken the regime as much as consolidate its domination domestically and expand its influence regionally, to say nothing of strengthening its hardline conservatives and ayatollahs

On the other hand, this strategy has deepened the disagreements between Washington and its partners in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement regarding Iran's nuclear program that was concluded with the UN Security Council's permanent members. It has also created serious problems with the great majority of the U.S.'s allies, especially in the industrial, metal, and energy fields.

One of the wonders of Trump's actions is that he does not want to cancel contracts worth $110 billion with Saudi Arabia lest these contracts go to Russia and China, but is tightening the noose around the Iranian economy and handing it over as easy prey to these two countries and others in the process.

Like the first installment, the latest sanctions are in violation of international law. However, and before that, they are an extension of the policies of isolation and arrogance that the U.S. president has been pursuing ever since he reached the White House.

"True, these policies affect the entire world; but it is also true that they do not absolve the U.S. itself of their dire consequences," concludes the daily.

End…

 

THE HONORABLE ARAB STAND: "When Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu describes the implementation of the second installment of U.S. sanctions on Iran directed at its energy and banking sectors as a 'historic day,' all honorable Arabs and Muslims must unhesitatingly take a forceful stance against these sanctions," writes Editor-in-Chief 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.

These sanctions have been imposed on Iran because it stands in the trench of resistance to Israel's occupation of Arab and Islamic holy sites in occupied Jerusalem. Had the Iranian government been laying out the red carpet for Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and had its gymnastics and Judo teams been playing on its soil, had it been playing the Israeli national anthem for those teams [as in the UAE], it would have been the close friend of the U.S. and its Jewish lobby, and the leader of the region crowned with the jewels of the U.S. Treasury.

By imposing a starvation blockade on the Iranian people, President Trump is implementing a purely Israeli agenda, just as his Republican predecessor George Bush Jr. did in Iraq. But this blockade's prospects of success are weak, not to say nonexistent. The fact that eight countries have been exempted– including China, India, Japan, and Turkey – offers the most prominent evidence of its failure, because these countries have already declared their intention, and have courageously announced that they would continue to buy Iranian oil without hesitation, just as they continued to trade with Iran despite the first installment of sanctions that were not oil-related.

We hope that the Iranian people and government will not offer any concessions to the U.S./Israeli alliance. We hope they will stand up to the blockade and learn from the sad lessons of Iraq and Libya. For if the course of concessions ever begins, it will only end in invasion and occupation. But we are confident that the Iranian leadership, which astonished the six major powers during the nuclear negotiations, is fully aware of this fact.

Trump fears Iran because it is a strong country that possesses an arsenal of missiles and military equipment that can destroy his allies, his bases, and his forces in the Gulf region. This is why he is resorting to a blockade in the hope that the Iranian people will rebel against their government and topple the regime. But the U.S. president forgets that this country lived for forty years under blockade without ever raising the white flags of surrender. We have no doubt whatsoever that it will not do so now.

We will not use the language of figures and oil barrels, but that of reason and logic. After all, if ISIS managed to find buyers for its impure and primitive oil, will Iran fail in this regard? (And please forgive us for this completely inappropriate comparison). And if North Korea has managed to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads and reach deep inside the U.S. despite an unprecedented and suffocating starvation blockade, will Iran prove unable to stand its ground, and perhaps retaliate as well?

The unarmed but heroic Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip have remained steadfast for more than ten years in the face of a suffocating blockade imposed by Israel and its Arab allies. They have confronted three Israeli aggressions, during which they succeeded in sending three million Israeli settlers to the shelters in fear and panic. Moreover, the resistance's 'primitive' missiles suspended air travel in Tel Aviv Airport for over 18 hours when this heroic nation was living on just half-a-meal and two hours of electricity a day, with all the crossing points shut in its face. This being so, what are we to expect in the case of the Iranian nation that lives in a land as large as a continent, eating from what it plants, and wearing and fighting with what it produces?

What the Israelis, their American representatives, and their new and old Arab allies fear most are the resistance factions that Iran has sponsored and 'fattened up' waiting for the 'white day' [when they will be put to use]. We are speaking here of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, which are laying siege to the occupation state from North and South, and whose missile strike forces – especially Hezbollah's – are protecting Iran instead of the other way around. These are the forces that will make Israel and the U.S. think a thousand times before firing a single bullet at Tehran.

Iran, the continent with rough terrain, will absorb the first American strike. But will Israel and its Arab allies succeed in absorbing the first retaliation from Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad? Can they withstand the thousands of missiles that will rain down on them from all directions? If the Patriot missiles, the pride of America's air defense systems, have failed to intercept the Houthis' missiles [fired at Saudi Arabia], will they succeed in intercepting the thousands of more advanced and accurate Hezbollah missiles when they are launched simultaneously, with tens and perhaps hundreds in each salvo?

On Sunday, President Hassan Rowhani revealed that during his stay in New York, four countries offered to mediate a meeting between him and Donald Trump on the margins of the UN General Assembly, but he rejected them all. This man rejects these proposals because he stands on firm ground and relies on an even firmer nation. He is not intimidated by the U.S. And anyone who says otherwise knows nothing about dignity, pride, and the will to stand one's ground and resist.

Once again, we say this loud and clear: When Netanyahu describes the imposition of blockade on Iran as a historic day this makes our choice very easy. And that is to stand in the other and opposed trench without hesitation.

"After all, life is nothing more than an honorable stance," concludes 'Atwan.

Ends…

 

2-Netanyahu defends, the Saudis procrastinate

 

Netanyahu's call to address [the Khashoggi affair] in an 'appropriate manner' is intended to set a ceiling for the way the murder is handled, making sure that it does not harm the Saudi regime's stability or damage its crown-prince. In doing so, he was inviting U.S. officials to address this issue in a manner that takes Israel's regional priorities into consideration. And Netanyahu made no secret of their nature when he added that the greater problem lies in Iran. Netanyahu's position amounts to a direct admission of the scale of the role played by the Saudi regime, and Mohammad bin Salman in particular, in the battle against Iran alongside Israel. The motive behind the Israeli PM's public entreaty clearly stems from his concern that harming the Saudi crown-prince would have domestic repercussions that could affect the entire scheme that the Trump/Netanyahu/bin-Salman triad relies on--Ali Haidar in Lebanese al-Akhbar

The Saudis may be wagering on the time factor to diminish the effect of what happened. After all, should a major crisis break out in the region, this issue would become of secondary interest for people in general, and could completely disappear off the map as far as politicians are concerned. The second notion suggests that the procrastination is intended to allow the Saudi ruling family to rearrange the regime's domestic household. For the Khashoggi case has not only undermined the Saudi crown-prince's image, reputation, and rule: It has also had repercussions on Saudi Arabia's political and economic situation. And if the situation remains the same, or if new evidence were to emerge that directly implicates the crown prince in what happened, that would have a ruinous effect on the ruling family's future as well--Mohammad Hussein Bakeer in Qatari al-Watan

 

Israeli PM Netanyahu's recent public defense of Saudi Arabia in light of the Khashoggi case is an indication of Israel's concern and uncertainty over the fate of a major regional ally, says a commentator in a pro-Hezbollah Beirut daily. This follows signs of secret attempts by Israel to protect Saudi Crown-Prince bin Salman against the repercussions of this case. Despite its admission that Khashoggi's murder took place with prior intent in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Saudi authorities have been procrastinating about revealing the location of his corpse, notes a Jordanian commentator. Three theories may explain what lies behind this procrastination.

 

FROM SECRET TO PUBLIC DEFENSE: "Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu's defense of Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman and his call for the need to safeguard the Saudi regime's stability was not only a decision to abandon Israel's official silence more than one month after journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder," writes Ali Haidar in Tuesday's left-leaning pro-Hezbollah Beirut daily al-Akhbar.

It also expressed a decision to move Israel's defense of this regime from the secret to the public phase as required by the course of unfolding developments and as a result of which there are concerns for the regime's stability and the possibility that the scheme that seeks to undermine the Islamic regime in Iran and confront the [Iran-led] resistance axis may be damaged.

Ever since Khashoggi's murder, its political repercussions have continued to unfold in response to the flow of information from Ankara regarding what actually transpired. As a result, Riyadh was forced to abandon the initial narrative that it tried to promote. Parallel to that, it became clear that Israel's defense of the Saudi regime, and specifically that of Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has also passed through different phases in tandem with the continuing developments that have apparently lasted longer than Saudi Arabia had anticipated and what Tel Aviv had hoped for.

As for the secret phase of Israel's defense of the Saudi regime, The Washington Post has revealed that Netanyahu has devoted himself to defending bin Salman in his talks with President Donald Trump's administration. The paper revealed that Netanyahu has beseeched U.S. officials not to harm relations with the Saudis because they are vital allies in the region. In fact, Israel's role in this issue may be very extensive, after it has become clear that Netanyahu played a direct role himself due to his realization of the dangers lurking in what is happening.

It seems that the growing concern for bin Salman's fate as a result of the continuous and escalatory political consequences of this case has driven Netanyahu to the phase of defending the Saudi regime in public. He chose the Hungarian capital Budapest to express his position, which seemed closer to an open plea after his secret efforts in this regard. This is why he formulated his position in a careful and deliberate manner: 'What happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with. Yet [at] the same time I say it – it is very important for the stability of the world, for the region and for the world, that Saudi Arabia remain stable… I think that a way must be found to achieve both goals. Because the larger problem is Iran and we have to make sure that Iran does not continue the malign activities that it has been doing...'

Netanyahu's call to address what happened in an 'appropriate manner' is intended to set a ceiling for the way the murder is handled, making sure that it does not harm the Saudi regime's stability or damage its crown-prince. In doing so, he was inviting U.S. officials to address this issue in a manner that takes Israel's regional priorities into consideration. And Netanyahu made no secret of their nature when he added that the greater problem lies in Iran.

Netanyahu's position amounts to a direct admission of the scale of the role played by the Saudi regime, and Mohammad bin Salman in particular, in the battle against Iran alongside Israel. The motive behind the Israeli PM's public entreaty clearly stems from his concern that harming the Saudi crown-prince would have domestic repercussions that could affect the entire scheme that the Trump/Netanyahu/bin-Salman triad relies on.

Among bin Salman's most important roles is that of financing many activities linked to Israel, as revealed by Trump himself a few days ago when he told The Wall Street Journal: '[The Saudis] have been a very good ally with respect to Iran and with respect to Israel.' And he added that Saudi Arabia 'has helped us a lot with Israel, and they have been financing many things.'

Saudi Arabia has also been playing a fundamental role in providing cover for the attempt to bypass the Palestinian cause and pushing for normalization with the enemy. It may be no coincidence that this track has coincided with the increasingly rapid rush towards normalizing relations between Israel and the Gulf states, moving on to the phase of publicizing the secret relations that have existed for some time, and leading up to successive official Israeli visits to these states. And this is in addition to the Saudi Arabia's role regarding the sanctions on Iran, specifically those having to do with the ban on Tehran's oil exports.

The detailed assessments that Israeli intelligence has presented to the political establishment regarding the horizon for the continuing repercussions of Khashoggi's murder have not been disclosed. Nevertheless, what the Head of Israeli Military Intelligence's Research Division Brigadier-General Dror Shalom revealed in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth (on 2/11/2018) points to some of Tel Aviv's concern and uncertainty. In response to a question as to whether the repercussions of Khashoggi's murder could end in toppling Mohammad bin Salman; Shalom said that that was possible. And he went on: 'The stability of regimes in the Middle East is shaky. A shake in any of them is possible. All of the world's intelligence agencies were taken by surprise in 2011. And this remains true today. It is not possible to predict when a regime might fall. I cannot guess the crown-prince's fate; but it is enough to say that Saudi Arabia has received a serious blow.'

"In light of this, it is not insignificant for Netanyahu to have no qualms about publicly defending the Saudi regime's stability against the pressures it is being subjected to, as this suggests his fear of a domino effect on the Saudi and regional situation, especially since the issue remains alive despite the fact that over a month has passed since it first erupted," concludes Haidar.

End…

 

A MONTH AND A FEW DAYS ON: "A month and a few days have passed since the heinous murder by a Saudi assassination team that came to Turkey with the specific intent of carrying out this mission," writes Mohammad Hussein Bakeer in Tuesday's Qatari daily al-Watan.

After a long period of denial and desperate attempts to camouflage what happened, and under pressure from Turkish leaks and investigations, Saudi Arabia confessed to the crime inside the Saudi consulate, as well to the fact that the murder took place with prior planning and intent.

Yet despite this admission, the Saudi authorities are still procrastinating about revealing the location of the corpse, and are avoiding answering the question as to who gave the direct order to the group to carry out this murder.

On this immediate issue, it would appear that revealing the corpse's location would entail a new scandal for Riyadh that would raise the heat of this already very hot dossier. For, if killing a human being is impermissible to begin with, especially if the person concerned is unarmed and was promised safety, one can imagine what the situation would be if the Saudi authorities were to admit to having dismembered the corpse and dissolving it in acid.

But as regards the broader issues, Riyadh may be wagering on other factors. Within this context, there are those who believe that three basic notions may explain the calculations behind Saudi Arabia's procrastination:

- The first notion is that the Middle East is a region brimming with crises, catastrophes, wars, and conflicts. In this sort of environment and because of the rapidly unfolding events, it is rare for any event to dominate the news for a long time. This being the case, the Saudis may be wagering on the time factor to diminish the effect of what happened. After all, should a major crisis break out in the region, this issue would become of secondary interest for people in general, and could completely disappear off the map as far as politicians are concerned.

--The second notion suggests that the procrastination is intended to allow the Saudi ruling family to rearrange the regime's domestic household. For the Khashoggi case has not only undermined the Saudi crown-prince's image, reputation, and rule: It has also had repercussions on Saudi Arabia's political and economic situation. And if the situation remains the same, or if new evidence were to emerge that directly implicates the crown-prince in what happened, that would have a ruinous effect on the ruling family's future as well.

The advocates of this view take into consideration some of the changes in the behavior of certain officials when it comes to dealing with Saudi Arabia. This includes King Salman's brother and former interior minister Prince Ahmad bin 'Abdelaziz's return to the kingdom, as well as the release of Prince Khaled bin Talal, Prince al-Walid bin Talal's brother, after being detained for a year.

- On the other hand, others claim that the procrastination may be linked to an assessment of Trump's situation after the U.S mid-term elections. In this regard, there are those who say that the procrastination is due to another wager on Trump, for if he were to emerge strong from this electoral challenge, he may be able to soften some of the likely consequences of Khashoggi's murder.

Each of these theories is possible. But the decisive factor in determining each of them is intimately linked to the nature of evidence that the Turkish side may produce in this case. The ambiguity about what evidence Ankara has in its possession is keeping the pressure on Riyadh at a high level.

"Meanwhile, it is clear that Riyadh is also trying to make use of this time to find out if this evidence will lead directly to the crown-prince in order to act accordingly," concludes Bakeer.

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 05.11.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Almost there

 

In an apparent break from its previous stance, Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, has reportedly given Egyptian negotiators the go-ahead to mediate an agreement to quell violence between Israel and Hamas-led factions in the Gaza Strip. But Palestinian officials continue to insist that any formal ceasefire with Israel can only be inked after rival Palestinian factions achieve a reconciliation deal. Senior Palestinian sources told al-Hayat Sunday that Fatah officials gave their approval to the Egyptians in Cairo during a meeting with Hamas leaders. The meeting was attended by Fatah Central Committee member 'Azzam al-Ahmad and Hussein al-Sheikh, another committee member and close confidant of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas. The sources noted that the current Egyptian efforts, reportedly nearing a conclusion, are aimed only at achieving "calm" between Gaza and Israel and are not a formal agreement or ceasefire, which they said can only be reached after Palestinian reconciliation. According to the report, Fatah gave its approval in order to "restore normalcy" to Gaza and prevent another war between Hamas and Israel.

Arab media reports have said that if achieved, a ceasefire would include at least a partial lifting of Israel's restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza. Israel holds that its restrictions on movement serve security purposes, including preventing the entry of weapons into the Strip. Fatah agreed to a two-stage plan, under which over the coming two weeks Gazans would agree to end violent protests. In return, Israel will allow the entry of Qatari-funded fuel oil to power Gaza's power station, as well as easing other restrictions, al-Hayat reported. Over the next six months, more restrictions would be lifted if the quiet is maintained with the goal of returning to a 2014 ceasefire that brought an end to the last major confrontation between Israel and Hamas-led groups in Gaza.

An emerging agreement between Israel and Hamas aimed at easing violence on the Gaza border will last until the end of 2018, the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported on Saturday. The paper published a draft agreement said to be an Israel-Hamas deal that will limit protest activities near the border and restrict violence. According to clauses in the draft agreement, Egypt will pressure Israel to lift 70 percent of the blockade on Gaza and expand the fishing zone to 14 nautical miles; 5,000 Gazan workers under 40 will be allowed to enter Israel for employment; and Egypt will open the Rafah border crossing.

In news of Jordanian-Israeli ties, Jordan said it has received a formal request from Israel to open negotiations about the future of two parcels of land along the border that the kingdom last month said it would retake control of, in a move perceived as downgrading the peace treaty between the two nations. Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs said Sunday that Israel had asked to hold consultations about the Baqoura and Ghumar regions, Jordan's official Petra News Agency reported. As part of the peace agreement between the two countries, Amman had agreed Israeli farmers could access and work the plots as part of a 25-year lease that had been widely expected in Israel to be renewed. Meanwhile, Egyptian President 'Abdelfattah as-Sissi on Sunday affirmed that "the peace agreement with Israel is stable and permanent" and said most Egyptians support the nearly 40-year-old treaty.

In other news, Israel's burgeoning diplomatic ties with the Persian Gulf states suffered a minor setback when Communications Minister Ayoub Kara was detained at Dubai airport and missed his flight after apparently failing to heed instructions from airport officials, the Kan news broadcaster reported Sunday, calling the incident "a farce." Kara has a long history of diplomatic snafus, but this incident comes at a particularly sensitive time, when Israel's previously clandestine ties with Arab states are coming out into the open. Kara, who was on a week-long visit to the United Arab Emirates to attend a telecommunications conference, was held for several hours at the airport last Thursday when trying to leave, the report said. Citing officials in Dubai, the report said that Kara was late for the flight and refused to follow instructions from airport personnel on the ground, prompting officials to detain him for several hours. "He was held up; there was chaos and arguments," the report said, calling the incident "a farce" and "an embarrassment" for those involved. Kara missed his flight but was later released and flew out.

Meanwhile, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz flew Sunday to Oman at the invitation of his Omani counterpart to present a plan that could see a rail link between Israel and the Gulf. Katz was to participate in an international transportation conference in Muscat and to present a regional transportation initiative, which he is advancing jointly with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who visited the Sultanate last month. It is the first time an Israeli minister has been formally invited to participate in an international conference in Oman, reflecting the strengthening ties between the two countries. The transportation initiative, called "Tracks for Regional Peace," is based on the planned extension of railway tracks in Northern Israel, which would link Haifa's seaport to Jordan's rail network, which in turn would be linked with that of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states. The network is envisioned as creating a regional transportation system to enhance trade relations and promote coexistence. The initiative, which seemed overly optimistic when it was proposed last year, now seems more realistic.

The United States re-imposed oil and financial sanctions on Iran today, significantly turning up the pressure on Tehran in order to curb its missile and nuclear programs and counter its growing military and political influence in the region. The move will restore U.S. sanctions that were lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the administration of Barack Obama, and add 300 new designations in Iran's oil, shipping, insurance and banking sectors. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman took to Twitter on Monday morning to thank Trump for re-imposing sanctions. "President Trump's bold decision is the sea-change the Middle East has been waiting for. In a single move, the United States is dealing a critical blow to Iran's entrenchment in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, and Yemen," Lieberman wrote. Iranian President Hassan Rowhani said that Iran will sell its oil and break the sanctions, pledging to government officials in comments aired on state TV that Iran would overcome the sanctions. "We are in a war situation", Rowhani said. "We are in an economic war situation. We are confronting a bullying enemy. We have to stand firm to win."

In other news, according to data published by the Ministry of Interior, voting rates in the Arab and Druze sectors were significantly higher than in the Jewish sector for the municipal elections held on Tuesday reports Yedioth Ahronoth. The data, which is yet to be finalized, also show that citizens whose socio-economic status is low vote in higher rates than citizens whose socio-economic status is high, people residing in small municipalities cast their vote in the ballot box more than those living in big municipalities, and that the voting percentages in the periphery are higher than those in the center of the country. Some 3,840,000 people voted in the municipal elections last week, with the national voting rate being 58%, a 7% increase in comparison to the previous municipal elections five years ago. In the Arab and Druze sectors, the voting rate was 84%, as opposed to 55% in the Jewish sector. Studies show that Arab citizens are interested in local politics, since they consider it the only vehicle for their political, social and economic development. However, most of the Arabs residing in East Jerusalem, who are permanent residents and not citizens, therefore have the right to only vote in the municipal elections and not for the Knesset, regularly boycott local elections, and this time was not any different.

The Times of Israel reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu gave the go-ahead Sunday for lawmakers to advance a controversial bill calling for the death penalty for convicted Palestinian killers of Israeli civilians and soldiers, reportedly rejecting the advice of the security establishment. Meeting coalition party heads to set the legislative agenda for the week, the prime minister said there was nothing preventing the proposal, which has been stalled since January, from being put to Knesset votes and becoming law. Netanyahu told coalition heads that opposition from both the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces should not prevent lawmakers from advancing the bill, Israel Radio reported Monday morning. Although the death penalty formally exists in Israeli law, it has only ever been used once — in 1962 in the case of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust. It is technically allowed in cases of high treason, as well as in certain circumstances under the martial law that applies within the IDF and in the West Bank, but currently requires a unanimous decision from a panel of three judges and has never been implemented. The bill, proposed by Yisrael Beitenu and championed by the party's chairman, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, would allow a simple majority of two judges to one to impose the death penalty. Lieberman said at the opening the of Knesset's winter session last month that the passage of the bill was a condition for his party to remain in the coalition.

Hoping that better market conditions and bidding terms will draw more interest than its last disappointing efforts did, Israel is planning a second auction of energy-exploration licenses over the next few weeks, the Energy Ministry said Sunday. The government will offer to oil and gas companies 19 offshore blocks in its waters offshore its Mediterranean coast, where there have been seven natural gas discoveries since 2004. "The aim is to continue the momentum of the Israeli gas sector's development, increase competition by bringing in new international energy companies and increase the energy security of the State of Israel," Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said. He pointed to plans to develop an undersea gas pipeline that would run from Israel through Cyprus and on to Greece and Italy. If the pipeline is indeed built it would enable Israel to export energy to Europe and make the blocs being auctioned more attractive to bidders who see little potential in the tiny Israeli market. Meanwhile, Israel's domestic pipeline network does not have the capacity to carry all the natural gas the Tamar and Leviathan partners have contracted to sell to Egypt, TheMarker has learned. The partners are scrambling to find a solution before exports begin in the first half of 2019.

Finally, the lights are going back on in the Gaza Strip, in a rare piece of positive news from the blockaded Palestinian enclave. In recent days, residents say they have received up to 16 hours of power from the grid per day, compared with as little as four previously. UN humanitarian officials report an average of between nine and 11 hours per day since October 25. It is the result of a landmark six-month deal, part of efforts to end unrest along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip that has raised fears of a fourth war since 2008. The deal emerged amid ongoing indirect negotiations between Hamas, which rules the Strip, and Israel, mediated by the UN and Egypt, in hopes of reaching a long-term truce. The fuel agreement, whose first deliveries arrived on October 9, has provided the most power to Gaza residents in years. Last month's deal sees Qatar pay $60 million for fuel delivered to Gaza's sole power station. The deliveries are sent through Israel, which agreed on condition that the United Nations monitors them to avoid interference by Hamas, which it has long accused of diverting humanitarian aid for terror purposes at the expense of Gaza's population. The tentative results are showing in the enclave's beleaguered economy: Companies able to work longer, restaurant costs falling, and even an increase in ice cream.

 

 

BACKING IRAN INTO A CORNER: Yoav Limor in Israel Hayom asserts the new sanctions imposed on Iran today are different than those levied against Tehran in the past. This time the edicts are only American, but the Iranians will have a hard time finding breaches.

"The sanctions imposed today on Iran are not the end of the story, but another, vital step in the long struggle aimed at blocking the aspirations of the ayatollah regime in all spheres – nuclear, territorial, and religious. This struggle has been going on for more than two decades at an alternating pace, combining a variety of actions: Economic, political, operational, and media related. Throughout this period Iran has deluded the entire world and stopped only twice – following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and with the signing of the nuclear agreement in 2015.

In both cases, Iran stopped when its leaders felt the sword on their necks and feared for their rule. First when Tehran believed that after Afghanistan and Iraq their turn would come and hastened to halt the activities of the 'weapons group' responsible for the production of nuclear weapons, and again when the sanctions threatened to overwhelm the Iranian economy.

The undeclared goal of the current sanctions is to push the Iranian leadership into a corner and force it to make other decisions. There are those in the United States and Israel who hope that the growing economic pressure on Iran will lead to the overthrow of the regime, but this scenario is far-fetched. Despite the increasing number of recent street demonstrations, the regime is strong, and the energies required for overthrowing it have yet to gather.

The current sanctions are different from those that existed up to three years ago. They are only American - Europe, Russia and China will not partake in them - and they do not envelop the entire banking system. It is likely that Iran will try to maintain its economy in the near future on the basis of cash and money-changing, and will look for loopholes or partners that will enable it to continue to survive. The likelihood of Iran succeeding in this is low. The European effort to develop a 'sanctions bypass route' is likely to fail, because it is doubtful that any Western company will prefer to trade with Iran than with the U.S. Russia does have the potential to sabotage U.S. efforts if it agrees to export Iran's oil for it – and transfer the returns in cash. Still, that would be no more than aspirin for a serious illness; not something that will save the Iranian economy, which is gasping for air regardless.

Those expected to pay the price will be first and foremost the Iranian people. Washington and Jerusalem hope that the sanctions will also affect others supported by the regime in Tehran; Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and the rebels in Yemen. This will not happen automatically and without a struggle between extremists and moderates in Iran, but it will soon be necessary for Tehran to decide between continuing to export the revolution and diverting funds to calm the Iranian street.

For Israel, this is good news. If Iran chooses the path of war, even the skeptics will acknowledge that its intentions are negative. If it chooses to withdraw, the threat from its proxies will diminish. Less money for terror means less weapons, less training and, by implication, less motivation and energy for war adventures.

Tehran will probably try to survive this process until the U.S. administration changes. It is doubtful that this will happen, and Iran may be forced to decide as soon as possible whether to 'go crazy' and go nuclear in the hope that will buy her immunity (based on the North Korean precedent), or reach a less convenient deal, but one that would give her some breathing space. For Israel, such an agreement must be much broader than the one from which the Americans withdrew. It must include not only nuclear issues, but also significant restrictions on the development of long-range missiles and Iran's involvement in terrorism and destabilization of the region. To date, apart from rumors, we have no knowledge of serious talks on a new agreement, but it is likely that mediators will soon emerge to promote the idea; the more Tehran feels the weight of the sanctions, the greater its willingness will be to compromise in order to secure their removal."

Ends…

 

NETANYAHU'S BLACK OCTOBER: Amit Segal in Makor Rishon cites the reasons why the past month was so difficult for the PM and claims that although they do not signal the beginning of his demise; they do explain why he has lost his appetite for early elections.

"Of the 115 consecutive months in office, October 2018 will not be remembered as one of Binyamin Netanyahu's best. In fact, he would prefer to forget it. The blows engulfed him from all sides: He got in trouble with his political base over the decision to postpone the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar, his lawyer of many years Ya'akov Weinroth passed away, in Kiryat Shmona he needlessly offended a woman heckler who presented herself as his supporter, And then rammed into Gideon Sa'ar at a hundred Kilometers per hour – a political brawl that never benefits a prime minister against his junior. Above all, the ongoing situation in the South continues to disrupt many Israeli's peace of mind, and the new situation in the North continues to deprive a few senior Israelis of their sleep. The apparent difficulty of continuing the air attacks in the North is engendering whispers of nightmare events in Lebanon and Syria. Netanyahu's control of security and the international arena is his main source of strength, and these two situations are unpleasant, with no end to them in sight.

Politicians are sophisticated sensors for detecting weakness. Netanyahu is not weak. Far from it. But such a buildup of internal statements against him has not been recorded in a very long time. It began with Sa'ar's vehement reply to the putsch accusations, continued with Lieberman announcing the appointment of the new chief of staff while Netanyahu was on a visit to Oman, and later with Lieberman's disparaging remarks regarding the identity of the deputy chief of staff ('He will be chosen by the defense minister, as is the custom'). There were also secret recordings of MK Miki Zohar against him, with expressions that are unprintable in a newspaper, and the interviews given by David Bitan and Dudi Amsalem, who did not bother hiding off-record, questioning and debating his decision to support the Likud's opponent in the mayoral elections in Bat Yam. Bitan made clear that Netanyahu did not tell the truth and the decision was his, not the Likud's; Amsalem defined the decision as a grave mistake.

This is not the beginning of the end for the prime minister. Merely a seasonal cold in his popularity. But it does explain why he lost his appetite for early elections. There were those in his inner circle who urged him to finally cash in on the thirty-something mandates he has been receiving in the polls in the past half a year, but there were others who suggested that he first distance himself from recent events. This is the reason for the gap between Finance Minister Kahlon, who is in a hurry to dissolve the Knesset, and the dull tranquility with which the Knesset is approaching its fifth year. By the way, Deri, who had a good surprise showing in the municipal elections, will want to capitalize soon on his local gains in national elections. This has created a strange situation in terms of this coalition, although common in any other coalition. For the first time in a long time, Netanyahu wants elections less than a few of his partners."

Ends…

 

NEW DIRECTION IN THE GULF: Smadar Perry in Yedioth Ahronoth writes that Israeli agents are running around in all the Gulf States, alongside high-tech people and business men. Oman and Bahrain are not about to sign peace treaties with Israel, but there is a new generation there that accepts the Jewish state.

"Notice how in one week, Israeli delegations visited three principalities in the Persian Gulf: the prime minister and the head of Mossad were in Oman, culture and sports minister Miri Regev and a group of athletes were in Abu Dhabi, and a delegation of former academics and army personnel, and another small delegation of athletes, went to Qatar. Every country has its own separate agenda. After the meeting with the ruler of Oman, next in line is Bahrain, which announced yesterday that it would invite Netanyahu for an official visit. A date has not yet been set.

Here are the differences. Oman has a long tradition of mediation, parleying between embroiled elements within the country, between neighboring countries, and between foreign countries as well. This special mediation method is designed to sit the parties down at the negotiating table, after which Oman exits the scene and makes room for a more senior mediator. The ruler of Oman now wants to create negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians and then bring in his American allies. He also has a longer-term plan regarding the Iranians. He wanted to make clear to Netanyahu: First the Palestinians, a pause, and then Tehran. No pressure, no time restraints, no agenda. When they decide in Washington that the time has come, the Omani foreign minister is ready pave the way.

Abu Dhabi is an interesting country. Like Dubai, it is mainly a venue for the good life, has a lot more foreigners than residents, and a de facto ruler (who did not bother making an appearance for the visit of the Israeli delegation), Muhammad bin Zaid, who is assisted quite a bit by Muhammad Dahlan, who resides there. If Ben Zaid asks for advice on an Israeli issue, he knows whom to summon.

In Qatar matters are much more complex. Four Arab states, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, are waging a war against it. There were moments when Saudi Crown Prince MbS, who closed the borders, threatened not only to cut off Qatar but to turn it into a hovering island. But this is where the largest American base in the Arab world is situated. With a view to Iran, President Trump and his gang will not let the Saudi Crown Prince run wild. Qatar maintains a special ambassador to Gaza, Muhammad al-Amadi, who frequently visits Israel, and has managed to establish pretty good ties here. His official role: To transfer money (never a problem in Qatar) to Gaza. The money, as always, buys influence and special status.

I was in Qatar last week. It is hard to describe the wealth, the splendor, the momentum of construction and the preparations that are gaining incredible momentum, for the soccer World Cup games in about three years. For the first time in the Arab world, the competition will be held in this small, wealthy emirate, which dreams of becoming a 'sports empire'. Hotels, restaurants, and clubs are being built at a riveting pace, with promises of alcohol flowing freely in closed places. But Qatar is also striving for a political role in the region. The Saudi Crown Prince has hinted that he is willing to end the boycott, without committing to a timeline, but Egypt is pressing for Qatar to be expelled from the dialogue with the Palestinians. My bet: Ambassador Al-Amadi will be allowed to continue his work between Tel Aviv and Gaza.

In all the Gulf states there are Israeli agents running around, alongside high-tech and business people. You speak to an Omani or a Qatari or a Bahraini, and a new world is revealed to you. No pressure, no stress. They are not going to sign peace pacts with Israel, but they see the Israelis differently now. The sequence of meetings in the Gulf should be maintained. It will benefit Israel in Egypt and Jordan and will open new routes. Each of the princedoms has a link to a large Arab country, and Israel can take advantage of this bridge. It is also very important to listen to the young people in the Emirates. A new generation of business owners, factory managers and young academics who are not put off by Israel, provided of course they receive a green light from the ruler's grand palace."

Ends…

 

HAMAS'S RENEWED TRUST IN EGYPT: Tal Lev-Ram in Maariv comments that the sight of Egyptian vehicles in Gaza during the weekend is making us think that we are on the cautious path to an arrangement. Everything will continue to progress in small steps and the road ahead is very long.

"The picture of the three white vehicles belonging to the Egyptian intelligence delegation, which came to survey the fence area in Saja'iya, to see first-hand whether Hamas is working to curb the demonstrations, is probably the picture that best summarizes this weekend's events, which were completely different from what happened in the South last weekend, when Israel and Hamas were very close to further escalation. Despite the relative calm, more difficulties are expected as the pendulum swings between a deal and an escalation. It is too early to tell whether Egypt's efforts will indeed lead to a period of quiet in the South.

More than anything else, the weekend events in Gaza prove to what extent Hamas is capable of regulating the height of the violence according to its interests and its satisfaction with the pace of negotiations to reach the objectives it has set itself for the removal of the blockade on the Strip. The difference on the ground is not apparent only in the number of participants in the demonstrations. About 10,000 Palestinians are still expected to arrive at the fence in coming weeks. The major difference was in the method of protest and violence. It was yet again revealed that when Hamas wants to, it can control the territory and even prevent the burning of tires.

For Hamas, this weekend was mainly a gesture and show of confidence in Egypt and its leadership, for the efforts they are making to reach an arrangement. Hamas has absorbed some internal criticism of its actions to rein in the events on the ground over the weekend. It is much too early to judge this as a sign of things to come. Reality may change and make a complete U-turn, as we saw in the previous week. But this weekend, Hamas provided Egypt with what it requested, and did not embarrass the delegation that visited the fence.

Between Cairo, Gaza, Ramallah, and Jerusalem there remain great distances and differences of interests. Until the arrangement is reached many obstacles are expected to crop up. At this point the focus is on small steps, in an effort to calm the area from week to week. Beyond the steps Israel is taking, which are expected to begin in the near future – opening the crossings, expanding the fishing areas, approving international projects, funding salaries and transferring funds to the Strip – the crux of the problem is still the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Despite his threats, Abu Mazin has refrained at this stage from imposing additional sanctions on the Strip. The meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh between him and Egyptian President Sissi was of great importance. The Egyptians seem to be succeeding in gaining some time, but the PA chairman has not given up his demand that the PA's control in Gaza be complete, including of the security services. Such a scenario is not currently viable. In recent months, whenever Israel and Hamas have come close to a lull, some event would routinely crop up and cause a breakdown. Despite the progress of the past week, Hamas, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are very far from a deal, and other security escalations are likely to emerge on the way to one."

Ends…

 

GAZANS BENDING ISRAEL AND HAMAS: Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz argues that Gazans have become a strategic force that cannot be ignored. They have managed to cultivate a political relationship between Israel and Hamas, even forging unofficial security coordination.

"The Egyptian delegation to Gaza arrived on Friday to watch Hamas work its magic on the demonstrators. They were indeed enthralled. There were fewer protesters – thousands, not tens of thousands. They kept a greater distance from the border fences and there were no fatalities. The Egyptian and Israeli conclusion is that Hamas not only holds the knobs on the stove, it can also adjust the height and intensity of the flames. If it chooses, the thousands will confront the Israel Defense Forces, and if it chooses, they will stop the attacks on the fence.

But this is a conclusion that did not need any proof, certainly since Israel constantly claims that Hamas is the sole responsible party in Gaza and controls everything that happens there. This conclusion should have made Israel realize years ago that trying to foment a civil revolt against Hamas through a blockade and sanctions is simply not realistic. The theory that replaced it said that while the punishments should not cease, they should be reframed as a means of pressuring Hamas and putting it in a position where it was liable to lose its legitimacy and public support if it did not do what Israel wanted, which would lead to an easing of Gaza's living conditions.

In fact, it was the same theory and strategy as its failed predecessor. The real threat is the two million Palestinians who have been living under a brutal siege for 11 years. Both Israeli pressure on Hamas from above by reducing its ability to rule, and the attempt to provoke public protest against Hamas from below, relied on a role that the Gaza public was supposed to play. But the public in Gaza turned into a strategic force that led even the IDF to speak up about the severe living conditions in the Strip, and in the end forced Hamas to pursue an arrangement that is still being negotiated. For six months, tens of thousands of people were enlisted in a show of force called the March of Return. Some 20,000 to 30,000 people, young and old, women and children, take their lives in their hands, and they do not come to the confrontation line just because Hamas orders them to. They are the force that represents two million people who have nothing to lose.

One could ask why tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands more do not join them, but it is the same question that could be asked of the Arab Spring demonstrations in Egypt, which in the best case drew half a million to a million people representing some 90 million citizens. If you compare the size of the Egyptian and Gazan populations, one could say that 20,000 Gaza demonstrators are equal in force to a million people, around half the Strip's population. The consistency and devotion exhibited by the demonstrators in Gaza have an enormous power that proved to Israel and Hamas that this was not a temporary show of strength, but a phenomenon unprecedented in Gaza or the West Bank since the second intifada ended, or at least since Hamas seized control of the Strip in 2007.

Israel chose to ignore this public display and aimed its sharpshooters at those launching balloons or who were identified as leaders of the demonstrations, or who dared to come too close to the fence. Thus it could bypass the substantive reason for the demonstrations by portraying its mission as the defeat of an 'armed' enemy endangering Israel's security.

There is no disputing that the balloons caused great damage and put lives at risk; this enabled Israel to present the conflict as a struggle against a terrorist organization and not as a confrontation with a civilian population. At the same time, it neutralized the danger of war, because who is going to launch a war against balloons? One can heap praises on Prime Minister Netanyahu for abstaining from war, but what prevented war was the nature of the conflict, which did not provide the required legitimacy for a full-scale military campaign.

The issue of an arrangement that has been accompanying the confrontation all along – and which has shattered the established view that one does not negotiate with terrorist groups – turned the talks with Hamas into talks with Gaza's population. The permit to bring in fuel, arranging for salaries to be paid through Qatar, the emerging willingness to allow 5,000 Gazan laborers to come work in Israel, the promise to build a port and to enlarge the fishing zone – these are all civil steps aimed at calming the Gazan public and giving Hamas means of control.

Israel is not demanding that Hamas disarm or that it disarm other groups such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Committees, nor is it demanding that Hamas give control over the border crossings or tax collection to the Palestinian Authority. PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas is making those demands of Hamas, not Israel. From this we see that the question of 'strengthening' or 'weakening' Hamas is no longer relevant, since Israel gave up testing the organization's power when it abandoned the diplomatic process and went over to a policy of splitting the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, which makes preserving Hamas' power important. This policy requires Israel to be concerned about Gaza's welfare, not for humanitarian or altruistic reasons, but as a strategic decision that ascribes power to this exhausted and impoverished populace, which has managed to fashion a diplomatic relationship between Israel and Hamas that even includes undeclared security cooperation.

This strategy cannot tolerate any more delays. It requires declaring the intent to totally lift the blockade, subject to practical security restrictions, to open the gates to large investments, to create jobs for thousands of Gaza residents and to implement the rehabilitation plan that was agreed on after Operation Protective Edge, and which Egypt and Israel agreed upon again a few weeks ago. The conflict is no longer with Hamas, but with a large population that has proven its strength."

Ends…

 

TOPPLING HAMAS IS NOT THE SOLUTION: Jeff Barak in The Jerusalem Post avows that even Prime Minister Netanyahu accepts there is no alternative to Hamas rule in Gaza, and perhaps come the 2019 election campaign he will for the first time in a decade spare us his empty threats to destroy Hamas.

"Back in 2009, on the eve of the general elections that brought Prime Minister Netanyahu back into power, life was much more black and white for the man who has been our prime minister ever since. Talking about Hamas' control over the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu the contender had no doubts as to what Israel's policy regarding the Palestinian territory on Israel's Southern border should be: 'There is no choice but to uproot the Iranian-backed regime in Gaza.' Hamas, he said 'is at the service of Iran and militant Islam. Israel cannot tolerate an Iranian base next to its cities.' Talking at a conference a week before the elections took place, Bibi also harshly criticized the just-completed Operation Cast Lead, arguing that the then-government had not allowed 'the military to plug the hole in the South.'

One decade later, two terms in power and two large-scale major military offensives against Gaza (Operation Pillar of Defense and Operation Protective Edge), and the past summer skies filled with incendiary kites setting Israeli farmland and forests ablaze, Netanyahu's government today is, at one step removed, deep in negotiations with Hamas, seeking a long-term cease fire that will provide Israel with quiet in the South and maintain Hamas' rule over Gaza. As Netanyahu well knew back in 2009 and is totally aware of today, Israel has no alternative but to accept Hamas control in Gaza.

In a rare, on-the-record interview with Yediot Ahronoth a few days ago, Brig.-Gen. Dror Shalom, head of the IDF's Military Intelligence research department, laid out clearly the situation facing Israeli policymakers. The 2014 Operation Protective Edge, the senior IDF officer said, bought Israel a few years of quiet but did not resolve the humanitarian crisis inside the Strip. Rather than concentrate on relieving the suffering, Hamas continued seeking to improve its rocket capability, thus keeping the closure on Gaza firmly in place, further deteriorating the economic situation for ordinary Gazans. Much as Netanyahu and U.S. President Trump seek out and inflate external enemies to hide their failings and keep their base energized (my words here, not those of Shalom), Hamas turned the population's discontent against Israel and began the weekly demonstrations at the border fence, which sparked off this summer's round of violence, almost setting off another large-scale IDF ground offensive.

What is to be done? Not a lot, according to Shalom, the senior IDF military intelligence officer. 'Our challenge,' he said, 'is to keep the Gazan population's head above the sewage. Bringing about the collapse of the Hamas is not the solution. If Hamas falls, who will rule in Gaza? Poli (Yoav) Mordechai' (the former IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories)? Without having the political courage to say so openly, it seems as if our prime minister has reached the same conclusion. In a briefing last week with reporters, part on the record and part 'senior political source' for those topics less on-message with his official talking points, Netanyahu made it clear that the humanitarian problem in Gaza was the most pressing issue there, not Hamas.

Sending in tanks and troops will not solve the need to restore Gaza's infrastructure nor resolve the deep economic crisis in the Strip. As Shalom said on the record, there is nobody in the wings to take over control from Hamas. The Palestinian Authority is unable to do so, Egypt is not interested and as Hamas leader Yahiya as-Sinwar himself pointed out last month in an interview, the last thing Netanyahu wants is responsibility for another two million Arabs.

This past weekend saw perhaps the beginning of the end of the current round of tension between Israel and Gaza. While the regular Friday protests at the border fence did take place, they passed relatively quietly and no incendiary balloons were launched into Israel. This was no coincidence. In recent days, Egyptian intelligence officials, and the United Nations Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov have been holding intense talks with the Hamas to bring about a cease-fire. While not officially part of the talks, Israel is closely monitoring and playing its role in helping bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion, supporting the Qatari-funded shipments of diesel fuel into the Strip, which is increasing the number of hours a day Gazans have electricity, as well as backing an arrangement under which Qatar would pay for government workers' salaries in Gaza. According to a Lebanese newspaper report over the weekend, there is a 10-step incremental accord on the table, including a prisoner swap toward the end of the process, to ensure long-term quiet.

Could it be that come the 2019 election campaign – whenever that falls – for the first time in a decade we will be spared Netanyahu's and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's empty threats to destroy the Hamas?"

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 05.11.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

LOCAL ELECTIONS: Ahmet Hakan hazards a prediction in centre-right Hurriyet: "It may happen this way or that, create a big fuss, or spread many names and much speculation around, but I bet that the outlook will be thus in the end: In Istanbul, the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] will join the race with its parliamentary chair Binali Yildirim, or with deputy chairman Numan Kurtulmus. The CHP [main opposition Republican People's Party] will join the race with its former presidential candidate Muharrem Ince. In Ankara, the AKP will join the race with interior minister Suleyman Soylu, and CHP will run with Mansur Yavas. Let us mark these names out as our favourites and wait."

Guven Gurkan Oztan sees an opportunity to strengthen secularism in leftist opposition Birgun: "There are dozens of opportunities to stop Islamism, which has lost its ideological appeal. Rather than a strategy to take over the highest echelons of the state, another success story should be grounded locally, stemming from people's tangible issues. All of Turkey needs this success story, not only Ankara and Istanbul. Let us not forget that social municipality management in its true sense can help to downgrade political Islam, while also serving to strengthen the struggle for secularism at its base."

Hasmet Babaoglu demands respect for the new political regime in pro-government Sabah: "If parliament is democratic, national, and independent, it must acknowledge that the resistance against the July 15th 2016 coup attempt is sacred, and should act accordingly. A rhetoric that casts doubt over those who the defeated the coup plotters cannot be allowed beneath parliament's roof. It is clear on which side those who do have taken their positions: There is no point hemming and hawing! This parliament, together with the fact that it came after July 15th and the transition to a presidential system, embodies the special characteristic of a 'founding' institution."

 

TURKEY/U.S./SYRIA: Kurtulus Tayiz maintains that Ankara has outmaneuvered Washington in Northern Syria in pro-government Aksam: "Turkey's military and diplomatic moves in Syria have cornered the U.S. further each day, thereby limiting Washington's ability to maneuver. As Ankara escalates its pressure West of the Euphrates, its pressure on the river's Eastern banks is also being more strongly felt. Taking the Brunson crisis as an excuse, the Pentagon sought to cover up the promises it made to Ankara regarding Manbij in Syria and East of the Euphrates. However, Ankara managed to overcome this artificial crisis quickly, and sought to focus on real issues with the U.S. And Turkey has succeeded in resolving the Brunson crisis and elevating Manbij and East of the Euphrates as the primary issue on the agenda that calls for a resolution."

 

U.S. MIDTERM ELECTIONS: Ergin Yildizoglu contemplates the potential course of tomorrow's midterm U.S. congressional elections in opposition nationalist Cumhuriyet: "The results of the U.S. elections will not only affect the future of the people of the country, but also the peoples of the entire world. If the results go in one direction, there is going to be a chance to dismiss the racist, LGBT-hostile Trump who withdrew from vital agreements such as the Paris Climate agreement, the mid-range nuclear missile agreement with Russia, and who launched trade wars. If they go in another direction, fascism will soar while strengthening the prospects of a 'Great War' in the international arena."

 

VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Faruk Cakir proclaims the virtues of vocational training in pro-Islamist opposition Yeni Asya: "Is vocational education not the first step towards advanced technology? How can we explain that vocational schools are not considered a matter of state interest and that they are not given the necessary importance and attention? It should be noted that according to a recent survey, vocational schools have the highest non-attendance rates. Is this how we are going to take further steps in our advanced technology and research and development?"

 

Iran media watch

 

AIR DEFENSE DRILLS: A two-day air defense drill dubbed "Defenders of the Sky of Guardianship 97" started this morning. The military exercise is held jointly by Khatam al-Anbia (The Last Prophet) Air Defense Force, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Air Force, and the Army's Air Force. State radio VIRI said the drills are carried out in an area stretched over 500,000 square kilometers in the North, East and West of the country.

 

NEW ECONOMIC OFFICIALS: This morning President Hassan Rowhani met the newly appointed Economy Minister Farhad Dejpasand, his deputies and other officials at the ministry. Rolling news channel IRINN and English-language Press TV broadcasted his speech live.

 

ANTI-U.S. RALLIES: The anti-U.S. rallies of yesterday dominated Iranian media today. Most newspapers put photos of the nationwide demonstrations on their front pages and highlighted the coincidence of the U.S. embassy seizure anniversary with the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions. Reformist Ebtekar published a photo of a woman's hands with "Death to America" painted on them under the headline "Death to America on American sanctions day". Government-run Iran said the rallies were a "response to sanctions on the embassy seizure anniversary", while business daily Tejarat and conservative Hemayat spoke of a "crushing response" to Trump and his sanctions. Hardline Quds highlighted "40 years of Death to America", and Vatan-e Emruz published a collage of the rallies' under the headline: "Smacking Trump in the face". Channel One (IRTV1) reported on foreign media coverage of the rallies.

 

ANTI-TERROR BILL: Several newspapers covered the Guardian Council's announcement yesterday that it had turned down a bill on Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) passed by Parliament. "The Guardian Council found over 20 faults in the CFT Convention," the council's secretary said yesterday. He added that the bill was sent back to the Majlis after the council found out that "those faults include ambiguities and cases of non-compliance with Sharia law and the Constitution". "CFT rejected," read a banner headline on reformist Aftab-e Yazd's front page. The daily said the Guardian Council's move was unexpected since the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has given the Islamic Republic until February 2019 to complete changes to legislature regarding money laundering and terrorism financing. Reformist Ebtekar also wrote of "risks of failing to ratify CFT". Business daily Eqtesad-e Melli ran the headline "back to square one", while pro-reform Bahar questioned the timing of the council's announcement, which came on the day of anti-U.S. rallies. Hardline Keyhan lauded the bill's rejection under the headline "People and Guardian Council's slap in America's face".

 

TALKS WITH SCANDINAVIANS: The Iranian Foreign Ministry hosted the Norwegian and Swedish ambassadors to Tehran and Denmark's charge d'affaires for talks over recent murder plot accusations against the Islamic Republic.

 

U.S. MIDTERM ELECTIONS: Press TV reported that President Donald Trump had attended a rally in the U.S. state of Georgia ahead of the midterm elections where he warned about "migrants' invasion". Elsewhere, at a rally for Democrats in Indiana, former President Barack Obama said that Republicans in control of the White House and Congress have "racked up enough indictments to field a football team," said the channel.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Iranian users on Twitter have been reacting to the CFT bill's rejection by the Guardian Council. CFT in English has been mentioned over 3,000 times by users, who have largely condemned the council's move in light of the new U.S. sanctions. One user said the council's move on the day anti-U.S. rallies were held was "a present to Trump". Others highlighted the negative impact of the Guardian Council's move on Tehran's stock exchange market. 'Sattar Beheshti' has been used over 7,000 times over the past few days as Iranian anti-regime users post Tweets on the anniversary of the death of Sattar Beheshti, an Iranian blogger who died in November 2012 a few days after being arrested by the Cyber Police unit for criticizing the Islamic establishment on Facebook.

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 05.11.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-Fasten your safety belts

2-A pointless attack

 

1-Fasten your safety belts

 

Iran is wagering on the time factor. And it may be also be wagering on the end of Trump's term in office. Equally, it is wagering on certain European voices that believe that sanctions harm people but do not harm these kinds of regimes, and that Iran's reformist current will be the main victim of any new sanctions, which the regime will portray as a blockade imposed on the country and not on its political regime. In light of the North Korean precedent, Trump dreams that painful sanctions will ultimately convince Iran to return to the negotiating table, but ready to change its behavior this time around. We will have to wait to find out if Iran will confine itself to resisting the sanctions inside its borders, or whether it will use its regional cards in one country or another – and if its reactions will go so far as to harass U.S. troops in the region directly or by proxy, or whether it will tamper with the security of naval straits and passageways. A new chapter is beginning. The sanctions' winds are blowing on the Iranian economy. And when the weather gets turbulent, we must fasten our safety belts--Ghassan Charbel in Saudi Asharq al-Awsat

Iran is not a party that can be easily broken or uprooted from the region, or whose role in many of the region's conflicts can be ended. It has built many 'mansions' inside Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine over the past four decades. It is unimaginable that any of these countries' open-ended crises can find a final resolution without Tehran's presence at the negotiating table in some form or another. Indeed, Washington's regional cards are neither more numerous nor significantly stronger than Tehran's…The sanctions will not break Tehran's back. They will not compel it to raise the white flag of surrender and accept Pompeo's preconditions, which are just a variation of Netanyahu's terms. But it is also naïve to believe that Iran will be unaffected by these harsh sanctions, or to think that it has not adopted sufficient measures to avert severe damage to its economy and its citizens' prosperity. And this means that the confrontation and the arm-twisting game between the two sides may last for a long time to come. In fact, Trump may leave the White House before Tehran screams out in pain or collapses to its knees and begs for the U.S.'s forgiveness-- 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Jordanian ad-Dustour

Iran is entering a new phase as it faces the sanctions' guillotine. This was inevitable after the regime's rash behavior reached a point that was impossible to ignore, and after its schemes for imposing Iranian hegemony and control became clear to everyone, and after Iran's extensions began to threaten the region's countries and their Arab character, and after its expenditure on armament and the production of missiles of various sizes and ranges reached levels that gave rise to suspicions regarding Tehran's aims and objectives… The Tehran regime has driven the Iranian people into a bottleneck against its people's will. It is responsible for the blockade and Iran's isolation from the world, and for leaving the Iranian people hostage to the sanctions and the tragedies and catastrophes that will unfold in the form of hunger, deprivation, and misery. But the Iranian people, who have been living under the mullahs' regime which has deprived them of their freedom and dignity for forty years, will not stand by with folded arms as they see themselves hanging from the sanctions' gallows against their will--Emirates' al-Khaleej

The Trump administration's policies enjoy only a little popularity, whether in the U.S. or among its European allies. But the administration now faces a test of how serious and able it is when it confronts a shrewd and difficult opponent that has managed to benefit more from the U.S.'s mistakes than from its own capabilities. For Iran has emerged the winner from every regional confrontation that the U.S. has engaged in, and today more than at any previous time, it is backed by strong international allies, with Russia and China at their forefront. It is as if Iran were the spearhead in a war that will only end either by surrendering to unilateral American hegemony over the world, or by inaugurating a new multi-polar world order base--Mustafa as-Sa'id in Egyptian al-Ahram

 

As the U.S.'s latest round of sanctions on Iran take effect today and a new chapter in the history of the conflict between the two countries begins, it is clear that while the Iranian economy will suffer greatly, Tehran will simply not comply with Washington's demands, maintains the Lebanese editor-in-chief of a Saudi daily. The question is whether in its attempt to resist these sanctions, Iran would go as far as to harass U.S. troops in the region or in its strategic water straits. Although the sanctions are certain to hurt Iran, they are unlikely to do so to the extent that Washington believes or hopes, argues a leading Jordanian commentator. President Trump is much more likely to depart the White House before Iran falls to its knees and begs for America's forgiveness. The sanctions will force Iran to its knees, insists the editorial in an Emirati daily. But the Iranian people will not stand back and watch their descent into the disasters inflicted on them by the regime's rash policies. In light of the new sanctions' unlikely prospects of success, Washington's prestige in the region and on the world-stage is at risk, argues an Egyptian commentator. Since a direct military confrontation with Iran will be extremely costly, and since it has consumed all its other options, the U.S. is most likely resort to its regional allies and to wage a media campaign so as to portray its moves as a victory against Iran.

 

TRUMP'S DEMANDS: "Donald Trump is demanding things of the Iranian regime that it cannot provide or accept," writes Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Charbel in Monday's Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat.

He is demanding a full and final divorce between the regime and its nuclear dream, which some of its hawks view as 'an insurance policy' against American surprises. He is also demanding that the Iranian revolution should go into retirement in the shadow of a state that, together with its army and its 'Revolutionary Guard,' subsists within the revolution's map. He wants the revolution to refrain from infiltrating other peoples' lands, undermining their stability, and surrounding them with missiles. He also wants Iran to submit and behave as a normal state that does not give itself the right to deploy its oil returns and militias in order to restructure the region based on its designs and confiscate some capital or another's decisions.

But those familiar with the Iranian regime say that fanning the revolution's burning embers is one of the preconditions for its survival, and that ceasing to 'export the revolution' would undermine the entire project and confront the regime with the domestic test of an economic performance that is not encouraging at all.

And so, a new chapter in the U.S./Iranian confrontation, which has been going on for the past four decades, begins. This has been a political, diplomatic, and economic conflict, with a number of security-related interludes, but without sliding into a large-scale and direct military confrontation.

There are those who believe that the new chapter may be the most difficult so far, and that its result will determine Iran's position on the regional map and the extent of its role. For the U.S. sanctions, that have taken effect as of dawn today, target the country's vital oil and banking sectors. And analysts agree that they will inflict severe damage on the Iranian economy, despite the Iranians expertise' in circumventing previous sanctions.

Nor is it any exaggeration to say that the region's countries are totally involved in the results of the new chapter in this confrontation. For Tehran is deeply implicated in the region's conflicts. For decades now, it has been managing a large-scale program that seeks to overturn the region's previous balances and traditional roles.

On the eve of this new chapter, the exchanged messages were frank and heated. President Trump clearly stated, 'Our objective is to force the regime into a clear choice: Either abandon its destructive behavior or continue down the path toward economic disaster.' And he urged the regime 'to abandon its nuclear ambitions, change its destructive behavior, respect the rights of its people and return in good faith to the negotiating table.' So, via numerous statements from its senior members, the U.S. administration has set the main features of its policy, confirming that its aim is to change Iran's behavior and not its regime, and that the door is open for Tehran to return to the negotiating table if is serious about reconsidering its behavior and ambitions.

And the messages were also clear from the other side of the divide. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran and reminded everyone of what happened on November 4th 1979, when demonstrators attacked and stormed the U.S. embassy. Angry students held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The aim was to humiliate the 'Great Satan' and give the impression that the U.S. itself had been driven into a small cage, just like its embassy's hostages.

The slogan that resounded most loudly that day was 'Death to America.' And it has been repeated many times over the past decades. But it is clear is that America has not died, and proof is provided by the fact that it is launching a new round of unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian regime today. And the Revolutionary Guard's commanders have appeared in the context of their mobilization to confront the new phase, stressing their determination to hold their ground, while supreme leader Ali Khamene'i intervened to announce that Trump has 'brought shame to what remains of the U.S. and liberal democracy's standing.'

Before being elected president, Trump had said that the nuclear deal with Iran was a 'disaster' because it gave the impression that Tehran was well-behaved although it had not changed its behavior. He said that the agreement allowed Tehran to use its financial and diplomatic gains in pursuit of its missile program and its policy of undermining the stability of [Arab] regimes and altering the identity of [Arab] cities.

There were those who believed that Trump was merely threatening to withdraw from the agreement, but that he would not carry it out, especially since the other signatories had publicly opposed his step. But this is Trump we are dealing with: It is difficult to predict how far he may be ready to go, in one direction or another.

The new chapter of U.S. sanctions comes at a time when the difficulties that bedevil the Iranian economy are evident. The past few months have sent clear signals such as the fall in the Iranian Rial's value and the rise in the rate of inflation and unemployment. The itinerant Iranian protests were an expression of popular anger, as manifested in the truck-drivers and teachers' strikes. And to this we should add the ordinary Iranian citizen's sense that they must prepare for more difficult days ahead, forcing them to tighten their belt more than ever before.

On the other hand, the Iranian authorities do not have many other options. They will clearly try to elicit a stronger and clearer European position; but nothing suggests that Europe can play an exceptional role in this regard. The 'financial mechanism' [to avoid U.S. sanctions] that has been spoken of will not take effect for months and may have only limited results. The leading European companies prefer safety and it would be difficult for them to prefer the Iranian market if that entails losing their American markets. Moreover, Europe is not in the best of its days. The UK is persisting with its divorce measures, and the rebellion against the EU's spirit continues to spread. Angela Merkel does not want to seek a new term, and there are some who expect Germany to suffer a degree of political instability.

Iran is wagering on the time factor. And it may be also be wagering on the end of Trump's term in office. Equally, it is wagering on certain European voices that believe that sanctions harm people but do not harm these kinds of regimes, and that Iran's reformist current will be the main victim of any new sanctions, which the regime will portray as a blockade imposed on the country and not on its political regime.

In light of the North Korean precedent, Trump dreams that painful sanctions will ultimately convince Iran to return to the negotiating table, but ready to change its behavior this time around. We will have to wait to find out if Iran will confine itself to resisting the sanctions inside its borders, or whether it will use its regional cards in one country or another – and if its reactions will go so far as to harass U.S. troops in the region directly or by proxy, or whether it will tamper with the security of naval straits and passageways.

"A new chapter is beginning. The sanctions' winds are blowing on the Iranian economy. And when the weather gets turbulent, we must fasten our safety belts," concludes Charbel.

End…

 

SECOND INSTALLMENT IMPLEMENTATION: "The second installment of U.S. sanctions on Iran has entered the phase of implementation, specifically targeting its two strategic sectors, energy and banking" writes 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Monday's Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.

Washington's original wager was on cutting Iran's oil exports down to 'zero' and severing its relations with the international banking system (SWIFT). But there are serious doubts about its ability to achieve these aims; in fact, some people believe that it is more likely to return to negotiating table with Iran from a much lower point than that suggested by [U.S. Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo's twelve demands.

As the first 'exemptions' that Washington has allowed eight countries were announced, four have been revealed – Turkey, South Korea, Japan, and India. And this has immediately confirmed that it is impossible to implement a 'zero exports' policy. After all, these four exempted countries alone consume half of Iran's crude oil exports. And when the identity of the other four countries is revealed, the proportion of exported oil will rise, possibly significantly.

Moreover, because replacing Iranian oil does not seem easily achievable for the oil-producing and exporting countries, the price of crude oil is expected to rise notably in the coming phase, which means that Iran will compensate for any reduction in its income as a result of the U.S. ban on its exports via these high prices. Consequently, Tehran will be able to maintain a 'reasonable' level of oil returns.

Furthermore, if Europe succeeds in honoring its commitments by creating a 'new mechanism' that protects those of its companies that want do business with the Iranian market, Tehran would ensure its trade exchanges with the most important international centers outside the U.S., such as Russia, China, India, the BRIC countries, Turkey, and the EU.

Tehran is well known to have escaped the clutch of previous strict and comprehensive international and global sanctions, in which most of the abovementioned parties took part. Is it likely to submit to the new sanctions in the coming days, when most of the world's countries have no intention of complying with the American demands?

As for using the dollar as the currency for Iran's trade exchanges and its exclusion from the 'SWIFT' system, which it never joined to begin with, this is a different story; one whose medium-term effects on Washington may be even worse than its effects on Tehran. For the Trump administration's excessive imposition of sanctions on a large number of countries around the world – in effect two billion of the globe's inhabitants – is driving these countries to seek alternative and parallel systems to 'SWIFT' and the U.S. dollar as the currency for international trade. Iran would be the main beneficiary of such a new system, and many countries are ready to continue trading with Tehran using local currencies or hard currencies other than the U.S. dollar.

Furthermore, Iran is not a party that can be easily broken or uprooted from the region, or whose role in many of the region's conflicts can be ended. It has built many 'mansions' inside Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine over the past four decades. It is unimaginable that any of these countries' open-ended crises can find a final resolution without Tehran's presence at the negotiating table in some form or another. Indeed, Washington's regional cards are neither more numerous nor significantly stronger than Tehran's. Experience has demonstrated Iran's success in winning its wagers on its allies in more than one arena, unlike Washington, which has often displayed little staying power in managing these crises or trying to resolve them.

For these reasons, the Trump administration has continued to issue one invitation after another to Tehran to join a new round of negotiations over its nuclear and missile programs and regional influence. And, in fact, despite the deafening din of the confrontation between them, many well-informed sources speak of direct and indirect negotiations mediated by various parties – one of which is Oman – in order to contain the situation and prevent a slide towards the abyss of a confrontation whose outcome is unknown, possibly leading to new understandings over the abovementioned issues.

The sanctions will not break Tehran's back. They will not compel it to raise the white flag of surrender and accept Pompeo's preconditions, which are just a variation of Netanyahu's terms. But it is also naïve to believe that Iran will be unaffected by these harsh sanctions, or to think that it has not adopted sufficient measures to avert severe damage to its economy and its citizens' prosperity. And this means that the confrontation and the arm-twisting game between the two sides may last for a long time to come.

"In fact, Trump may leave the White House before Tehran screams out in pain or collapses to its knees and begs for the U.S.'s forgiveness," concludes Rintawi.

End…

 

TODAY IS UNLIKE TOMORROW: "The situation in Iran tomorrow will be unlike before," writes Monday's editorial in the UAE daily al-Khaleej.

Tehran is facing a new form of sanctions that may be the strongest and harshest so far. They will leave a clear imprint on the Iranians' life and on the behavior of the regime that is in charge of Iran's rash policies that have produced these sorts of sanctions.

These are unprecedented financial, oil, and economic sanctions that include target specific persons as well as political and military institutions and bodies and oil sectors. And Tehran will be unable to evade their effects because they will affect the countries and foreign companies that have investments in Iran and that will be unable to bypass these sanctions.

Tehran is dismissing the sanctions. Its leaders repeat that they can defeat them, just as they have defeated earlier sanctions. But experts confirm the situation in Iran will be catastrophic in the long- and medium-term. It will lead to social and economic crises that will not be easy to confront, especially since oil exports– the mainstay of the Iranian economy – will shrink severely and in a manner that will affect the country's entire economic situation. The fact that certain countries will not comply with the sanctions and have been exempted from them, or are trying to circumvent them, will not be sufficient to provide the requirements of development or satisfy the Iranians' daily livelihood demands. And this may produce stronger and more violent popular protests than those Iran's cities have witnessed over the past few months.

Iran would not have had to suffer these and other sanctions had its leaders been sufficiently wise and realized that playing with fire may burn them, or that their interventions in neighboring countries would confront them and the Iranian people with disaster. Anyway, these leaders have brought this upon themselves and the people they claim to represent.

As of today, Iran is entering a new phase as it faces the sanctions' guillotine. This was inevitable after the regime's rash behavior reached a point that was impossible to ignore, and after its schemes for imposing Iranian hegemony and control became clear to everyone, and after Iran's extensions began to threaten the region's countries and their Arab character, and after its expenditure on armament and the production of missiles of various sizes and ranges reached levels that gave rise to suspicions regarding Tehran's aims and objectives. Meanwhile, the Iranian leadership has been depriving its people of their right to their monies, which have been squandered on armament and backing regional groups that area loyal to it and that operate to promote its aims.

The Tehran regime has driven the Iranian people into a bottleneck against its people's will. It is responsible for the blockade and Iran's isolation from the world, and for leaving the Iranian people hostage to the sanctions and the tragedies and catastrophes that will unfold in the form of hunger, deprivation, and misery.

"But the Iranian people, who have been living under the mullahs' regime which has deprived them of their freedom and dignity for forty years, will not stand by with folded arms as they see themselves hanging from the sanctions' gallows against their will," concludes the daily.

End…

 

LENIENT-SOUNDING BOLTON: "One day before the second installment of U.S. sanctions on Iran took effect, and contrary to previous American threats that Washington was determined to totally strangle Iran, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton made a lenient-sounding declaration, saying that Washington does not wish to harm its friends and allies, and realizes that a number of countries that are geographically close to Iran cannot stop buying its oil," notes Mustafa as-Sa'id in the authoritative Cairo daily al-Ahram.

It is as if Bolton were paving the way for the U.S.'s failure to convince most of the countries that purchase Iranian oil to join the sanctions, but wanted to present this as being up to the U.S. to decide rather than a rebellion and rejection of its policies. As a result, he gave the countries allied with or close to Iran permission not to take part in the oil embargo.

But Bolton is fully aware that the U.S. has done everything possible to convince each of these countries to take part in the embargo, either by threatening them or by offering them incentives, all to no avail. The EU, India, Pakistan, and South Korea have all insisted on continuing to import oil from Iran. For their part, China and Russia will lend Iran a helping hand in marketing its oil and overcoming the sanctions. Russia has announced that it will sell Iranian oil on its stock exchange, while China plans to increase its imports of Iranian oil. All of which means that the U.S. sanctions will have paltry results.

Iran will not submit to the American demands regarding the development of ballistic missiles or amend its policies because it believes that the U.S. only understands the language of power. Moreover, it has already been subjected to comprehensive sanctions that lasted for almost 40 years, and it will not be severely damaged if it withstands sanctions for a few more years, especially since Trump is facing domestic problems and opinion polls predict that the Democratic Party will win the mid-term elections. And the Democrats are opposed to the U.S.'s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran. Therefore, the incoming U.S. Congress may obstruct Trump's policies, even if it does not manage to impeach him.

The worrisome thing for the Trump administration is that it will be forced to escalate its clash with Tehran or lose much of its prestige after it its economic war on Iran fails to produce any tangible results. But it will not find new means of pressure, having already consumed all such means. In fact, Iran's allies in Yemen will benefit from the growing pressure from public opinion in the U.S., France, and Britain to end a war that is threatening millions with starvation or lethal epidemics with growing numbers of civilian victims of a conflict that is about to enter its fourth year with no prospect of victory. The result will be that Iran will achieve greater influence in a region that is of extreme importance for international navigation.

Meanwhile, all this is happening against the background of the PMU's (largely Shiite Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units') growing military activity, reports that Syrian military formations are being trained in waging guerilla warfare [against U.S. troops in Syria], growing Israeli concern at its inability to resume its air raids in Syria after Russia has provided the Syrian army with S-300 missile systems, the Russian president's refusal to meet with Binyamin Netanyahu, and an end to contacts between the Russian and Israeli defense ministries.

Bolton has threatened the EU countries that are ruining the attempt to strangle the Iranian economy to impose sanctions on the international 'SWIFT' system that links and coordinates transactions between banks. This is an extremely dangerous card that could damage the international banking system, which is largely dominated by the U.S., and it may harm American banks before anyone else.

All this means that Washington has limited options, especially since military action has been ruled out from the very start because it would expose the U.S. presence in the region to serious threats. The U.S. is thus more likely to confine itself to media and political pressure while persisting with the sanctions and claiming that it has achieved many gains and succeeded in weakening Iran, shifting the burden to the region's states and demanding that they should do what is expected of them.

The Trump administration's policies enjoy only a little popularity, whether in the U.S. or among its European allies. But the administration now faces a test of how serious and able it is when it confronts a shrewd and difficult opponent that has managed to benefit more from the U.S.'s mistakes than from its own capabilities. For Iran has emerged the winner from every regional confrontation that the U.S. has engaged in, and today more than at any previous time, it is backed by strong international allies, with Russia and China at their forefront.

"It is as if Iran were the spearhead in a war that will only end either by surrendering to unilateral American hegemony over the world, or by inaugurating a new multi-polar world order base," concludes Sa'id.

Ends…

 

2-A pointless attack

 

The latest Saudi/Emirati assault on the Houthi-held port of Hodeida is desperate attempt to seek some advantage before the war is forced to an end, says Luqman al-'Abdullah in today's Lebanese al-Akhbar

 

The recent escalation represented by the attack on the Yemeni Port of Hodeida comes against the background of statements by U.S. officials calling for an end to the Yemeni war, notes a Yemeni commentator in a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese daily. The attack clearly represents a last-ditch attempt by the Saudi/Emirati-led coalition to achieve gains before serious political negotiations begin.

 

NO RATIONALE: "The current attack on the Port of Hodeida can only be described as pointless, with no political or battlefield rationale," writes Luqman al-'Abdullah in Monday's left-leaning pro-Hezbollah Beirut daily al-Akhbar.

This is not only because of the recent American position calling for an end to the war on Yemen, but also because of the formidable defensive line that the [pro-Houthi] Yemeni army and the Popular Committees have set up at the city's environs.

The latest attacks come after more than four months of repeated failures, demonstrating that military operations have ran their course and proven to be ineffective as a means of attaining any achievements. The motive behind the current operations is to exploit the extra time before political negotiations begin, because both Riyadh and Abu-Dhabi feel the need to compensate for their failure at every level by trying to capture advanced positions on Yemen's western coastline, especially the Port of Hodeida, thereby controlling the main gateway for delivering supplies to three-quarters of the Yemeni people living in the country's North and center. They also hope to deprive the [Houthi] Ansarullah of a naval position that overlooks the Red Sea.

It would appear that concern that U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis's call for a form of [Yemeni] self-rule may become the 'terms of reference' for a political settlement lies at the background of this effort. This would be tantamount to recognizing the Ansarullah's presence and power and allowing it to occupy a geo-political position in the region.

But the motives for the latest attacks on Hodeida are not confined to the [Saudi-led] coalition's interests. They are a mix between Riyadh and Abu-Dhabi's genuine fears of being defeated by the Ansarullah and the resounding effect that would have on them, and domestic considerations having to do with the local Yemeni forces that are loyal to the coalition who fear that a political settlement will come at the expense of their presence and role, after these have been revived by their role in the war economy over the past years.

The U.S. call for ending the war on Yemen – assuming it is serious – undoubtedly represents an admission of the equation that has been imposed by the Yemeni people's legendary steadfastness. This will be followed by a long and difficult political negotiating track that aims to uphold that equation. And this, in turn, calls for staying power and political acumen since the coming negotiations will include maneuvers and attempts at deception, as well as incentives regarding reconstruction and alleviating the humanitarian situation.

Attempts will be made to make reconstruction and improvement of the humanitarian situation contingent on [Houthi] political concessions in the hope of denuding the power equation of its content and achieving by politics what the aggression has failed to achieve by war. In other words, the political confrontation will be no less ferocious and brutal than the military battles.

The coming days and weeks will reveal how serious the American position is, and whether it was merely in temporary compliance with public pressures, especially after the war on Yemen has become part of the U.S. electoral calculations, forcing the Trump administration to deal with it in a manner that is different than before. Alternatively, the U.S.'s position may be an expression of Washington's realization of the scale of the predicament in which its ally – Saudi Arabia – has implicated itself, but without succeeding in finding an exit strategy.

If the latter explanation proves to be correct, it seems to have been motivated by journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder that has exposed the Saudi regime's brittle nature and has highlighted the fact that Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman's 'boat' is overloaded in a manner that is almost drowning his regime and is taking U.S. and Israeli interests towards an unknown fate.

In light of this, Washington finds itself forced to reduce the weight in the 'boat' by helping the Kingdom find a strategy to disengage from regional crises and direct its efforts towards consolidating domestic Saudi stability, employing what remains of its foreign resources in the service of the U.S./Israeli project, especially in terms of the [U.S.-sponsored Palestine/Israel] 'deal of the century' and the sanctions on Iran.

Be that as it may, what appears to be certain is that Washington has woken up to a humanitarian crisis whose images have been filling the media for the past three years. The image of the starving little girl Amal and the subsequent announcement of her death two days later was not one of a kind. The UN has ensured that world hears that Yemen is facing the worst humanitarian crisis ever. The UN's committee of experts declared last September that the coalition was responsible for most of the civilian victims.

"Yet the U.S. administration did not bat an eyelid at the time. Instead, after absolving themselves of any responsibility for these violations, American officials emerged repeatedly to renew their full support for the Saudi and Emirati regimes and confirm their commitment to participating in the war by providing intelligence, logistical, and technical aid, and providing the coalition's warplanes with air-to-air refueling, as well as unlimited political protection," concludes 'Abdullah.

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 02.11.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

The view of military intelligence

 

Gaza protest leaders are calling for calmer border demonstrations Friday to give a chance to efforts to reach a long-term truce with Israel after months of deadly unrest, a source in the organizing committee said. Previous such hopes for a deal have been dashed since protests and clashes along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip began on March 30 and tensions in the region remain high. It was not clear if demonstrators would heed calls for calm. "Friday's events will be quiet," an official from the committee in charge of organizing the marches told AFP Thursday. Egypt and UN officials have been engaged in indirect talks between Hamas and Israel. An Egyptian delegation was in Gaza on Thursday for further discussions, meeting with leaders of different factions.

The protest organizing committee is technically independent from Hamas, but includes other groups, as well as Islamic Jihad. The official said the agreement to calm the border Friday "will give an opportunity for the success of Egyptian efforts to achieve calm and lift the siege." Protests would still go ahead, but demonstrators would be encouraged not to approach the fence too closely, burn tires or send balloons equipped with incendiary devices across the border. In a statement after a meeting of their leaders on Thursday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the marches would continue, albeit without violence. Both groups praised Egyptian and UN efforts to broker a deal. A separate statement by Islamic Jihad threatened that it would use a "new tactic," along the border, without providing details. After the meeting, a member of the organizing committee said the Egyptian delegation would attend Friday's protests. "The Egyptian security delegation will visit one of the return march sites tomorrow," journalists were told. A leader of Islamic Jihad told Haaretz that the Egyptians had agreed to work to curb any Israeli response to the protests over the next three weeks. He said the protests could be called off after that period if Israel keeps to its commitment to ease a blockade on the Strip.

Elsewhere, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been seeking to renew political ties with the Palestinian Authority in recent months, and for the purpose dispatched the head of the Shin Bet security agency to offer PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas an economic incentive package, Hadashot news reported Thursday. During their meeting in Ramallah, Nadav Argaman told 'Abbas that Israel was prepared to set up a joint industrial area and open up gas production off the Gaza coast, according to the network, which said 'Abbas rebuffed both offers. The report did not specify when the meeting took place, but said it came amid a series of meetings Argaman held with senior PA officials in recent months in which he stressed the Palestinian economy would benefit from renewed contact with Israeli leaders. Netanyahu's efforts to reestablish ties with the PA came following warnings of growing instability in the West Bank and Gaza from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

Meanwhile, Egyptian negotiators have proposed a three-year agreement to reconcile Hamas and Fatah, Army Radio reported on Thursday. The proposed agreement would be enacted in stages. The PA would first take responsibility for civil services and the government ministries in the Gaza Strip that are now under Hamas control. In its second phase the PA would be in control of the police and the border crossings. If all went well for three years, Hamas' military wing Ezz-el-Din al-Qassam would be placed under PA control as well. Separately, elections would be held for a new Palestinian parliament and a new constitution would be drawn up, according to Army Radio. The plan was designed by Egyptian General Ahmad Abd al-Khaliq, who has made four trips to Gaza and the West Bank in the past two weeks to secure agreements for the plan. He has also met with senior Israelis in the Defense Ministry. The Egyptian plan includes detailed timetables and formulas for each stage. Hamas is prepared to consider the plan but is waiting for a response from PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas who in the past has rejected any plan that did not immediately place the security services under his control. The Palestinian News and Information Agency, WAFA, said that 'Abbas is expected to meet Egyptian President 'Abdelfattah as-Sissi in Sharm el-Sheikh on Friday. It's 'Abbas' first meeting with Sissi in Egypt in ten months.

On the Northern front, Israel has reportedly sent a message to the Lebanese government via Paris demanding that it act against Hezbollah's rocket factories in the country, saying if Lebanon refused to do so, Israel could take military action. The message was delivered by Israel's deputy national security adviser Eitan Ben-David to Orléan la-Chevalier, an adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, during his visit to Jerusalem on Monday, according to Channel 10 news. "The Lebanese government must be careful when it comes to Hezbollah's rocket factories. If the issue is not dealt with through diplomatic means by the Lebanese government, Israel will act on its own," the message that cited unnamed "Western diplomatic sources" read. Ben-David asked that la-Chevalier deliver the message to Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad al-Hariri. France has close longstanding ties with Lebanon, and is close to Hariri. Ben-David said Israel would be patient, and was willing to wait to see if Lebanon took steps against the factories, but said it would not allow their construction to continue undisturbed.

In other news, Brazil's president-elect Jair Bolsonaro confirmed on Twitter Thursday that he intends to move his country's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "As previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem," Bolsonaro wrote. "Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that." Bolsonaro's public statement confirmed his comments to Israel Hayom on Thursday. "When I was asked during the campaign if I would do it when I became president, I said, 'Yes, the one who decides where the capital of Israel is, is you, not other nations,'" he told the paper.

In regional news, Prime Minister Netanyahu asked senior officials in the Trump White House to continue supporting Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post reported on Thursday. Citing U.S. officials, the report stated that Netanyahu described the Crown Prince as a "strategic ally". The report said that a similar message was conveyed to the White House by Egyptian President 'Abdelfattah as-Sissi. There have been reports in recent months of an increase in Israeli-Saudi intelligence cooperation. In a new sign of growing ties, the kingdom's Crown Prince hosted a delegation of Evangelical Christians on Thursday in Riyadh led by a prominent pro-Israel advocate, Joel C. Rosenberg, an author and Evangelical activist who lives in Israel. Other participants included Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem.

Finally, business ties between Israel and China took another step forward as several high-level bilateral collaboration agreements were signed at the fourth annual China Yunnan-Israel Innovation Cooperation Forum on Thursday.
One week after the business-oriented visit of Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, a high-level business delegation from China's Southwestern Yunnan province including Vice Governor Zong Guoying arrived in the country to deepen relations with Israel's innovation scene. Zong said that in order to implement collaboration plans signed by Wang and Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, Yunnan would focus on deepening cooperation in the fields of technology, trade and agriculture. Among the agreements concluded at the forum, Yunnan Investment Holdings Group (YIG), which has assets worth approximately $40 billion, inked deals with Israel Chemicals and leading IT company, Aman Group.

 

 

MONEY TIME FOR ISRAEL ON ALL FRONTS: Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth interviews Brigadier Dror Shalom, head of the research division in IDF military intelligence, about the day after Abu Mazin, Gaza, Iran and Syria.

"Q: Are we witnessing Abu Mazin's swan song? What awaits us after him?

A: I will say a few things that are uncomfortable for some people. There are two big issues before us – Iran and the Palestinians. Now is the money time. The main arena is Iran and its affiliates. There is a tremendous opportunity to put pressure on Iran in a full-court press, an opportunity that is beginning to materialize. Regarding the Palestinians, I am very cautious. What I will say will not be a recommendation, will not be a political opinion. I will make a strategic assessment. We voice our assessments out of complete freedom, within and outside Military Intelligence, even when our opinions are not popular.

Gaza First. Operation Protective Edge created relative quiet for a while. Gaza is a real swamp – a serious humanitarian problem, a desperate public. We calculated in real time that the humanitarian problem would pose a challenge to Hamas, and that they would lay their public on our shoulders. They tried to bring into Gaza tools that improve their rocket's performance. The attempt failed. What did they do? Went to the fence. We are on the brink of escalation. Our challenge is to raise the heads of the residents above the sewage water. The collapse of Hamas is not a solution. If Hamas collapses, who will rule Gaza, Polli Mordechai?

The second challenge is Judea and Samaria. There is relative calm there. We have maintained the fabric of life. We have succeeded in stopping the lone-wolf terror – inter alia because we have prevented collective punishment, despite the calls to use collective punishment. But there is also despair and frustration there, a society in depression. Two ideas have accompanied them since 1967 - the armed struggle and the accords. As far as they are concerned, they both failed.

After Abu Mazin there will be changes. The security forces may reduce their cooperation with the IDF. That is a serious problem. Abu Mazin sees a dead end everywhere, in every way. In his desperation he is becoming more and more oppositional. He is surrounded by people who do not want to commit suicide - the Palestinian Authority is the basis of their existence. The PA will not disappear, but I do not believe that whoever replaces Abu Mazin will be more pragmatic than him, and will stick to the coordination with Israel like him. The challenge is great.

Q: This Sunday, the new sanctions that Trump imposed on Iran will be activated. What do you think will happen after that?

A: The sanctions create a great drama in Iran. They will worsen the economic situation. Iran is currently at a low point. With the exception of Hezbollah, she does not have many successes. The Khomeini revolution has failed. External pressure can lead to a regime change or a change in its policy. Iran can break away - renew the nuclear project. That means, a year before they reach fissile material, two years to the bomb. I believe that the probability for that is low. They are in a waiting position right now, looking for all sorts of solutions that will enable them to bypass the sanctions. But they are unsuccessful. I believe that the Russians will not supply them with a meaningful solution either, nor will Western Europe. The Europeans are dependent on the United States.

Q: What does that mean for intelligence?

A: It means that we need to pay renewed attention to everything that happens in the nuclear project, to see where they are cutting corners, where they are violating the agreement, and what they are aiming for.

Q: What are the other options?

A: They can seek a new nuclear agreement, and they can reach a collapse of the regime. That is the result John Bolton, the American national security adviser, is striving for - to kill them softly. Iranian policy is determined by a game between three forces – Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, who is seeking a confrontation; President Hassan Rowhani, who shares the same vision but believes in a pragmatic approach; and Khamene'i, the Supreme Leader, who vacillates between the two and is procrastinating.

Q: In September the Syrians downed the Russian plane. Since then, the Russians have imposed heavy restrictions on the IDF's activity against Iranian presence in Syria. Are the Iranians taking advantage of the opportunity and moving in?

A: No. The good news is that the Iranian entrenchment in Syria is being stopped. The reason is decisions made in Tehran. The bad news is that the Iranians are bringing into Syria capabilities that are designed for a military confrontation. Suleimani is not giving in. He views Syria as a pouncing-point into Israel. I estimate there will be an intensification in the friction between us and them.

The Russian presence is a dramatic change. We have to deal with them cautiously. Israel is operating in Syria and will act in the future as much as necessary, but it cannot ignore Russian interests. The Russians have an interest that the Iranians will not be in Syria. They want quiet, and they know that when the Iranians are there, facing Israel, there will be no quiet. They fully understand the potential for escalation.

Q: The Russians are far from being our friends. They have no respect for the interests of others. Their reaction to a minor operation of ours in Syria was severe.

A: In the IDF no one is confused about the Russians.

Q: The problem starts with the Americans. The Trump administration gave up on being involved in determining the fate of Syria.

A: I do not want to talk about the Americans. I prefer to say something general about the Western world. The West has come to the conclusion that over-investment in the Middle East does not bear fruit.

Q: What will Syria look like in the future?

A: There is a struggle over the future of Syria. The rebels are still in Idlib. The struggle there is not over. There are ISIS pockets of resistance, and Kurdish activity. Controlling Syria's border crossings is a major challenge. Perhaps in the next war the Syrian space will be more active against us than it was in past wars.

Q: Will the Iranians take Jordan?

A: What happens in Iraq will affect the fate of Jordan. Both America and Iran are satisfied with the situation in Iraq. This worries me. Jordan is dealing with the spread of Iran and leakage from ISIS. She has severe economic problems.

Q: Why did King 'Abdullah decide not to extend the lease that enabled Israel to cultivate thousands of dunams in Naharayim and the Arava River? Was it the street pressure?

A: Mainly because of street pressure.

Q: Israel made a surprised face. No one knew, not even the prime minister. The question is where was military intelligence? Did you not know?

A: Military Intelligence was in the right place. In this case, no special intelligence effort was required - it was in the newspapers in Jordan. We knew and reported.

Q: So why did everyone say they were surprised?

A: Sometimes that is what they decide to say."

Ends…

 

CHANGING THE FORMULA: Amos Gilboa in Maariv affirms no war is needed. Israel's strategic goal should be returning to the situation that existed for four years since Operation Protective Edge until March 2018, with some humanitarian relief.

"This is the first time in the history of the State of Israel that its government is faced with a security problem that it has difficulty dealing with. For seven months now, a terrorist organization has been creating a new security situation for Israel on its Southern border, and the state is abandoning tens of thousands of its citizens and thousands of dunams of its land to a deliberate and orchestrated terrorist initiative. What are the main characteristics of Israel's shameful confrontation with Hamas?

First, since the first moment on March 30, Hamas has been the initiator. It is the one being constantly original and surprising with the various effective methods of terrorism it is coming up with. It is the one dictating the rules of the game to the IDF and the population of the Gaza envelope. It is the one setting up special units in order to drive IDF soldiers and our civilian population crazy. More importantly; it is succeeding in harassing us, and liking it. Why not continue?

Second, the IDF has so far successfully prevented the border fence from being breached, sustaining only one casualty, and has destroyed many tunnels. But it is solely defensive and responsive. This is an IDF that does not initiate, does not surprise; only responds, in a lackluster manner, while ensuring that Hamas members are not killed in retaliation attacks. These are reactions that do not detract from Hamas' desire to continue with its various initiatives. In other words, Israel refrains from exacting a painful price from Hamas for its terrorist activities.

Third, in the past week a new factor has come into contention in the Gaza Strip: Iran via Islamic Jihad, which is its ward, and has a new leader based in Lebanon. The Iranian signal to Israel: We can cause you problems from Gaza as well.

What is behind this limp Israeli policy? The almost official explanation is that utmost restraint must be exercised in order to exhaust the political process aimed at reaching an understanding with Hamas on an arrangement that will bring quiet and prevent a humanitarian collapse in the Gaza Strip. Everything must be done to avoid a war at the end of which we will have to remain in the Gaza Strip after its occupation. This is because no political entity will be willing to take Gaza off our hands. In general, the greatest threat is from the North, and we must not devote ourselves to this negligible 'bothersome' business in the South.

This perception is mistaken and I am not referring to the opposition's delusional concept, according to which the IDF must destroy Hamas, hand over the Gaza Strip to Abu Mazin and start a political process. The strategic goal of the State of Israel should be a return to the situation that existed for four years from Protective Edge until March 2018, with additional humanitarian relief. In the present policy, Israel will not achieve this. Diplomacy or defensive and reactionary moves alone will not cause Hamas to agree to such an arrangement.

There is no need for war, no need to conquer the Gaza Strip, no need to destroy Hamas. We must change the formula and exact a painful price from Hamas – from commanders on all levels, fighters, expensive military assets – by means of initiative, not response. The IDF should initiate and surprise; not Hamas. Only in this way perhaps it will be possible to reach a long-term arrangement that will meet our strategic objectives.

My friend Professor Hovev Telpaz has surmised that Netanyahu's extreme restraint stems from the desire not to make trouble for President Trump before the U.S. Midterms on November 6. This is indeed restraint of the highest strategic order. We shall wait until November 7 and see."

Ends…

 

TO OMAN WITHOUT CONCESSIONS: Ariel Kahana in Israel Hayom argues that Netanyahu's trip to Oman was made possible through mutual interests – and with no need for a preliminary political agreement that would ease the atmosphere and placate the Palestinians. Now political sources claim they are parleying about conducting similar visits to additional Arab countries.

"On Monday of this week, Prime Minister Netanyahu convened dozens of journalists for a briefing on a subject that as per usual was quite quickly swallowed up in the news whirlwind of our lives - the visit to the Persian Gulf Sultanate of Oman. Whether it is because the visit was conducted on Friday, or because it was not preceded by an impressive withdrawal agreement, the breakthrough visit garnered almost no attention, even though it is certainly worth dwelling upon.

The first and only visit so far to Oman was Yitzhak Rabin's in 1994. But then the background conditions were completely different. Rabin signed the Oslo Accords, and the sweeping concessions included in it ostensibly justified the counter-gesture by Sultan Qaboos of receiving him in the capital Muscat. This time, as Netanyahu himself explained, there is no deal of visits in return for concessions. Oman, and it is not alone, is snuggling up to Israel because of 'interests that stand in their own right', as Netanyahu put it.

What are these interests? The common fear of Iran's aggression and the terror of ISIS and the like, Israeli knowledge and experience regarding desertification and water management, technological innovations in general and in agriculture in particular, and so on. In other words, there will be no more Israeli withdrawals from the territories as a means of rapprochement, only the mutual needs of Jews and Arabs from each other, regardless of the Palestinian issue.

Abu Mazin and his clan are losing their grip on the key that has allowed them for so long to prevent an entente between Israel and the Arab states. The Palestinian refusal to accept any proposal is also causing the Arab states to distance themselves from the Palestinians and move closer, very gradually, to Israel. They do it because it is worth their while, and regardless of whether we withdraw from territories in Judea and Samaria.

The contacts with the Middle Eastern sultanate began about a year and a half ago. Oman's foreign minister, Yusuf bin Allawi bin 'Abdullah, was the main axis in the process. He spoke on the phone and held several meetings with the prime minister. Most of the meetings took place during Netanyahu's travels abroad, but not only there. Netanyahu also spoke on the phone with Sultan Qaboos during the period. Last February, as part of what was then defined as a 'visit by Foreign Minister Ben Allawi to the Palestinian Authority,' he went up to Temple Mount with Israeli approval. If the man arrived in Jerusalem, he did not refrain from meetings with Israelis in the western part of the city.

At first, a multi-participant meeting was held with senior officials from both countries in attendance, followed by a private meeting between Netanyahu and Sultan Qaboos. Later, the prime minister also met with the foreign minister of Oman. Members of the entourage, who have already seen a palace or two in their lifetime, testified that Qaboos' was extraordinary and also in especially good taste.

After the political talks, an authentic musical event was held for Netanyahu. A political source who was present at the event said that the prime minister 'met a very rich musical world with African, Indian, and Persian influences. This is a less familiar style of music, which penetrates the heart and touches the soul'. Later on, the delegations dined at a meal that began at 3 AM, and included plenty of dishes of all kinds, including fish for kosher eaters. The banquet went on until 6:30 in the morning, with classical music playing in the background, according to the personal choice of the 78-year-old sultan. Qaboos is not just another Arab dictator, but a man who was educated at Oxford, and in his youth embarked on a four-year journey to learn about different cultures around the world. Netanyahu, for his part, admired the elderly and sick ruler's soul of an artist as well as his political wisdom. According to sources close to him, the prime minister even changed his mind on some issues following the talks with Qaboos.

Oman is not the only one seeking rapprochement with Israel. One might say that Netanyahu himself has made visits to other Arab countries, that have not been revealed - and that he is not the only Israeli to do so. To get an idea of what is going on under the table, we must look at what is happening above it. Saudi Arabia speaks positively of Israel and has made historical precedent by allowing commercial flights destined for Israel to fly over its land. The clues and reports regarding coordination of interests and intelligence relations are increasing. Israel is conducting secret contacts similar to those that existed with Oman prior to the visit, with the overwhelming majority of Arab states. The process is taking place quietly, carefully, step by step, and without pressure from Israel."

Ends…

 

THE DEAL WITH JORDAN: Arnon Segal in Makor Rishon claims that in order to salvage the lands leased from Jordan in Tzofar and Naharayim and the cooling relations with King 'Abdullah, the Israeli government may grant the Jordanians what they really crave – increased control on Temple Mount.

"In the coming year, following frenzied contacts at the palace in Amman by some emissary appointed by the prime minister, a laconic announcement to the press will be issued, concerning the continuation of the Israeli lease in the Naharayim region and the Tzofar enclave in the Arava. A general sigh of relief will be heard. By the same token, the benefit to King 'Abdullah for permitting in his grace the preservation of the peace agreement - even on the lowest possible flame - will not be mentioned in this future announcement. Israelis will be forced to discover what it is on their own.

Will it be another cut in the quota of skullcap wearing Jews authorized to ascend to Temple Mount? A dramatic increase in the scope of the Waqf? The construction of another mosque on the Mount or the depletion of the presence of Zionist police on it? Maybe all these together, and more? Only Netanyahu knows.

Netanyahu does not need crises such as the present one to grant the neighboring poor Kingdom generous sovereign rights over the mountain. In the fall of 2015, in order to preserve relations with 'Abdullah, he did what no Israeli prime minister had done before, when he publicly declared that Jews may only visit Temple Mount, while the right to pray there is reserved solely for Muslims. In order to maintain proper relations with the Jordanian King, a year and quarter ago the prime minister removed the metal detector on Temple Mount. Before that, he authorized the Jordanians to monitor events on the Mount by means of cameras, a move that was not implemented only because of the Palestinians, who were not enthusiastic about granting such means of control to 'Abdullah. For 'Abdullah's sake, Netanyahu has repeatedly allowed to increase up to many hundreds – record numbers hitherto never seen - the number of Waqf members who harass Jewish groups on the Mount. Four years ago, Netanyahu traveled to Amman only to grant the king his wish (which was only revealed later of course, and not in an official announcement) - restricting ascent of observant Jews to the Mount to groups of five, and forbidding members of the Knesset to ascend the mountain.

The sad truth is that as far as the Israeli prime minister is concerned, Temple Mount is mainly an available means of payment. It is not only to the Jordanians that Netanyahu generously hands out the assets of the Jewish people in the holiest place in the world. In his first term as prime minister, he allowed the Waqf, without any restrictions, to build two mosques on the Mount - in Solomon's Stables and in the double Hulda Gate ('Al-Aqsa Al-Kadima'). He did this after 1,300 years in which no new mosques were built on the Mount. Recently, the media has come up with ideas, whose source can be surmised, to bring the Saudis as well into this no-man's land, the Temple Mount. Who knows? Maybe that notion will be scrapped after the murder of Khashoggi.

In recent years, the Jordanians have watched with disdain the growing number of Jews ascending the Mount, the stubborn struggle of observant Jews for the right to pray there, the occasional waving of the State's flags there by Jewish citizens, and they are seething with anger. Naharayim and Tzofar, the gas deal and even the vital water that Israel, in its grace, pumps to Jordan, thus saving it from dying of thirst, are not as important to the Hashemite King as the status of his royal house on the Mount. In practice, those who control the compound with an iron hand are the people of Raed Salah, but even the appearance of control is more important to 'Abdullah than all the precious gifts that the State of Israel gives him. It sounds almost mystical, but what leaves the Hashemite kingdom above water, in the opinion of its own leaders, is the possession of this holy place.

Had it not been for the traditional title of 'Guardian of the Holy Places', the Hashemites would have been decapitated long ago. It is very likely that in coming years this will happen regardless, despite Israeli resuscitation efforts. Anyway, one cannot escape the question – what is in it for us? Why does Netanyahu really do this? Because he adheres to the belief – which should be put to the test once and for all – according to which rescuing the Hashemite rule and keeping it alive artificially is in Israel's interest. Our Prime Minister is an advocate of maintaining the existing order, of status quo in all matters. The cost of maintaining regular relations with this weak entity has been swelling over the years, yet Netanyahu pays it, and apparently not with a broken heart."

Ends…

 

ISRAEL WILL END UP FACING IRAN ALONE: Chuck Freilich in Haaretz writes the Trump administration's well-intentioned efforts to challenge the Iranian regime, its expansionism and nuclear ambitions are partial, unrealistic and incoherent. Israel cannot rely on them – or on a mercurial U.S. president.

"Eureka! Saudi Arabia, as the 'enlightened' international community has recently learned, is not a cuddly country. Its regime is probably the most heinous on earth, but it took the gruesome murder of one journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, to offend international sensibilities. Not the beheadings of 146 people in 2017 alone. Not the thousands of lashes meted out for such horrific transgressions as the belief in atheism. Not the women, who can now drive, but still cannot leave their hometown, or receive medical care, without the approval of their male guardian.

Nearly all other news, including the Trump administration's recent efforts to contain Iran, were drowned out by the self-righteous indignation that consumed the international community. Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh's sexual activities had a similar effect on the recent speeches by U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Iran in the UN. The very same Iran that is no more cuddly than Saudi Arabia, that is guilty of extreme human rights violations, and continues to pursue both regional expansionism and an unacceptable nuclear capability.

Whereas past U.S. administrations have customarily completed major policy reviews during their first half year in office, the overall contours of Donald Trump's strategy towards Iran are only now emerging. Heated rhetoric aside, Trump is actually no more avid to confront Iran militarily than his hated predecessor and has thus adopted the same policy instruments that Obama wielded until the 2015 nuclear deal – sanctions, sanctions and more sanctions. To his credit, this now includes the Basij militia, the primary instrument of brutal domestic suppression.

There are, however, two critical differences between Trump's policy and Obama's. First, the European Union and Russia are doing everything they can, this time, to undermine U.S. sanctions, admittedly with limited success so far, by establishing special trading mechanisms designed to circumvent them. Second, Trump has refrained thus far from the ultimate measure adopted by Obama, in the form of sanctions on Iranian use of the international financial clearinghouse, known as SWIFT. The international sanctions regime led by Obama proved sufficient to bring Iran to the negotiating table and to make significant compromises, but not to forgo its nuclear infrastructure or long-term nuclear aspirations. The Trump administration has yet to explain why a less comprehensive regime would now yield greater concessions.

Netanyahu believed that Obama was too quick to reach an agreement with Iran, and presumably hopes that Trump will now stick to the hardline approach longer, prior to reaching his stated goal of an improved agreement. Experience with Trump to date is not necessarily encouraging. Be that as it may, the specter of lost access to the U.S. market has proven so daunting, that the multinational corporations have already significantly cut trade ties with Iran, even before U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil, due in early November, come into effect. Iran's economy has already entered a tailspin.

A further difference between Obama and Trump, is that the former sought to engage Iran, whereas Trump appears bent on regime change, primarily through sanctions. The administration has yet to adopt regime change as its official policy, but senior officials have resorted to every possible rhetorical flourish just short of this. It has also begun an intensive campaign to delegitimize the regime, including a special report entitled 'Outlaw Regime: A Chronicle of Iran's Destructive Activities,' which sets forth all of its misdeeds in the nuclear, missile, cyber, human rights and other realms.

There is just one small, pesky, problem. 39 years after the Iranian revolution, no one has any idea how to bring about regime change, despite the intensive efforts that have been devoted to this. The administration has presumably tasked its best and brightest with a review of the issue, much as its predecessors have done, but readers would be well advised not to wait in breathless anticipation. The regime, for its part, has responded by announcing a 'resistance economy.'

The administration has also begun trying to establish a Sunni axis to contain Iran, an essential move, which was tried by its predecessors with notably little success. The differences between the Arab states that prevented effective cooperation in the past, as well as the limitations of their true capabilities, have only grown worse. Qatar is under Arab boycott, Oman maintains good relations with Iran, Egypt is preoccupied with its own domestic travails and the Saudis have now gone from being the poster child of reform, to a rogue state. One would be hard-pressed to overstate the vehemence of current anti-Saudi sentiment both in the American media and Congress.

Israel was never intended to be a part of the putative Sunni axis, but both its and the administration's hopes of containing Iran were predicated on broad, if quiet, strategic cooperation between it and Israel. The primary Saudi contribution was to have been an increase in oil output, once the U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil went into effect, designed to prevent a rise in prices that might have both hurt the international economy and undermined domestic support for the administration' policy. The international outcry following the Khashoggi affair may prove to be an unfortunate strategic turning point in the attempt to contain Iran.

The administration is also reportedly completing, belatedly, a review of its policies toward Syria, and Iran's involvement there. Under the new policy, the administration will supposedly call for political change in Syria, without making this contingent on Assad's removal, for an end to Iranian involvement in Syria, without calling for a complete severance of ties, and for as yet unspecified measures to deter Syria from using chemical weapons and hasten ISIS' destruction. The small American military contingent deployed in Syria will remain in place, to prevent Iranian territorial contiguity, and sanctions will be imposed on Iranian and Russian firms that invest in Syria's reconstruction. The U.S., for its part, will stay out of Syrian reconstruction, until the administration's conditions are met. The new policy reads like a playbill borrowed directly from Obama.

The administration continues to present Iran with a list of 12 demands, all of which are eminently desirable, but entirely unrealistic, and the lacunae in its approach remain such that it is very difficult to speak of a coherent policy. The deployment of S-300 missiles in Syria, along with President Vladimir Putin's repeated rejections of Netanyahu's requests to meet, demonstrate the limitations of Israel's Russian option.

The good news is that the importance that Iran attaches to its ties with Europe and Russia have forced it to continue adhering to the nuclear agreement, despite the U.S. withdrawal, although it is unclear for how much longer. Israel should be grateful that the nuclear agreement has enabled it to attack Iran's growing military presence in Syria repeatedly, before it has succeeded in going nuclear.

It is incumbent upon those of us who believed - and still believe - that the nuclear agreement was the best of the bad options available, to now support the administration's efforts. Only the outcome matters. Nevertheless, and as welcome as Trump's hardline approach towards Iran may be, Israel cannot rely on such a mercurial president. Indeed, the bottom line may very well prove to be that Israel will essentially stand alone against Iran, but with greater limitations on its freedom of action over Syria. Israel must, therefore, define its priorities carefully, first and foremost, preventing Iran from going nuclear at almost all costs, and only secondarily, dealing with its missile presence in Syria and with Hezbollah. To this end, it must continue building its own independent capabilities."

Ends…

 

WHY IS THE EU STILL FANTASIZING ABOUT THE IRAN DEAL?: Daniel Roth in The Jerusalem Post asks why EU politicians continue to peddle these fantasies of a revived JCPOA, and surmises the official EU response to the U.S. decision provides a strong clue.

"The European Union's bizarre insistence on seeking to resuscitate the corpse of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) reveals more about the EU mindset than about the merits of the agreement itself. With foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini manning the defibrillator, the EU Commission, Council and Parliament continue to pledge an imaginative array of mechanisms to thwart U.S. sanctions, keep the money flowing to Tehran, and shock the JCPOA back to life. According to Iranian media, the EU's latest gambit is to consider opening a Tehran office.

Six months ago, when President Trump landed the fatal blow in announcing the American withdrawal from the JCPOA, extravagant EU promises to fortify the JCPOA by shielding companies from looming U.S. sanctions made a little more sense. At that time, many big European firms contemplating Iran operations or agreements were still wavering. But today, following more than 150 confirmed European pullouts since May – including some of the biggest names in EU business like Volvo, Renault, Maersk and Siemens – there are no longer buyers for what the EU is selling. Even the French and German governments, traditionally 'the engine of European integration,' are scornful of the Brussels-based efforts.

So why do EU politicians continue to peddle these fantasies of a revivified JCPOA? The official EU response to the U.S. decision provides a strong clue. Soon after President Trump's announcement, Mogherini insisted that the JCPOA was 'a significant achievement of multilateral diplomacy.' That is accurate. Whatever one's assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the deal, the act of reaching agreement among eight separate and unique players after 20 months of negotiations was unarguably a monumental diplomatic triumph.

For the EU, in particular, it was a moment of exaltation. It demonstrated, even without its own armed forces, the EU's strength and value on the global stage – 'one of the few instances where the bloc could deploy its collective diplomatic weight.' It showed that the EU, distinct from its constituent country members, could walk tall among the big beasts and carve out its own world-shaping – perhaps indispensable – mediating role. In iconic photographs, the EU's '12 stars' flag was seen flying high alongside the flags of the U.S., Iran, Russia, China, France, Germany and the UK. And standing beneath the EU flag was the EU high representative – first Lady Catherine Ashton, then Mogherini – repeatedly lauded between 2013 and 2015 as the 'unlikely peacemaker between America and Iran,' playing 'arguably the most important role in world diplomacy,' who 'was front and center as European and American political leaders congratulated themselves over a historic nuclear agreement with Iran.' The Iran deal ensured that the EU went 'from zero to hero'.

But the JCPOA turned into the last significant achievement for the EU. Since that heady moment it has been zero rather than hero. No sooner had the ink dried in Vienna in July 2015, than the EU began struggling with the combined fallout from the Syrian civil war migrant crisis, explicitly anti-EU governments sweeping to power in Hungary, Poland, and Italy, and most importantly, the Brexit referendum.

Within a short 12 months, the EU had gone from JCPOA hero to Brexit zero – easily the lowest point in the EU's 67-year history, and a possible harbinger of 'Italexit,' 'Irexit,' 'Grexit,' and any number of other 'exits.' Even George Soros, one of the most prominent supporters of the EU project, acknowledged earlier in 2018 that the 'EU is mired in an existential crisis' in which 'everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.'

The EU's ongoing attempts to double down on the JCPOA make far more sense when viewed within the broader context of its own existential challenges brought upon during these last three traumatic years. Obviously, Brussels must not truly believe it can revive the deal when its companies and member-states have explicitly chosen U.S. business over the small Iranian market (which has a national GDP smaller than Washington State). But nonetheless, it simply cannot let go of a symbolically important achievement that has brought great prestige to the organization. It is therefore not surprising that the EU seeks to preserve what may be one of its final major legacies – even at the high costs of threatening the integrity of the global financial system by excluding U.S. anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism expertise and damaging the trans-Atlantic alliance (just two of the potential fallouts from the current shortsighted schemes emanating from Brussels).

Rightly, the White House has blasted Brussels for genuflecting to Iran, the world's premier state sponsor of terrorism, which continues to finance five of the world's top-10 richest terrorist groups. But maybe the president, secretaries Pompeo and Mnuchin, and National Defense Adviser Bolton should view the EU's behavior more sympathetically and see it is not as much about reanimating the JCPOA cadaver – dead in practice yet alive in symbolism – but about breathing life into the EU project itself."

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 02.11.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-The new balance in Yemen

2-Prince Ahmad's return

3-What Erdogan wants

 

1-  The new balance in Yemen

 

Washington's demand, backed by London, to end all military action in Saudi Arabia's disaster-stricken neighbor, and specifying a timetable of 30 days to achieve this aim, is not just about Yemen. It also seeks to record negative points on the political 'driving license' Washington has issued to bin Salman– perhaps as a prelude to withdrawing it completely if he does not comply. In other words, it represents the first step towards withdrawing the political cover the Trump administration has extended to the crow-prince. And this is an extremely important development for the balance of political power inside the Kingdom. A number of media outlets have suggested that the next step in the growing pressures on the crown-prince consists of action to end the Saudi/Emirati/Bahraini blockade on Qatar. The third step has to do with restructuring the ruling equation inside the Kingdom and loosening bin Salman's hold on all its sources of power--pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi

Mattis's statement is closer to a military order to Saudi Arabia and Yemen to end the war. The rest consists of calls and demands made to the Yemeni leadership and Ansarullah [Houthis] in particular to accept an end to the Saudi and Emirati military operations in return for stopping the missile fire at Saudi territory. These calls received a clear response from the Ansarullah, linking any further discussion to the demand for a comprehensive end to hostilities, and for lifting the blockade imposed on Yemen as the first step to be taken in this regard. The new balance in Yemen is now clear after the U.S. position. It places Ansarullah on equal footing with Washington, which has now declared that it has taken control of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their Yemeni backers' decision. It is also clear that Muscat will manage the negotiations between the American and Yemeni sides, and that Washington is doing this after forcing Muscat to pay for the prize of playing a mediation role by normalizing its relations with Israel--Nasser Qandil in Lebanese al-Bina'

Thanks to the problem resulting from the journalist Jamal Khashoggi's affair, the appetite of every party that has a demand or a bill to settle with the Saudi state has been whetted. Some want Saudi Arabia to end its hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood; others want it to stop confronting the Iranian threat; and other demands are being made, including some that are nothing short of financial blackmail. Among the bills that Saudi Arabia is being asked to settle is one that calls upon it to stop confronting Iran's agents in Yemen – the Houthis – on the pretext of being merciful towards humanity. This is humanitarianism the likes of which we failed to see the British left's journalists shedding any tears for in the case of this century's greatest humanitarian catastrophe, namely, in Syria--Mashari adh-Dhaydi in Saudi Asharq al-Awsat

 

The U.S. and UK's call for all military action in Yemen to end within a period of 30 days represents an ultimatum to Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman, maintains the editorial in a Qatari-owned pan-Arab daily. But this is not just about Yemen; it is also the prelude to curbing the crown-prince's power and reversing his policies in the region. Washington's apparent decision to end the Yemen war appears to be an admission of its regional allies' failure to secure the U.S.'s aims in its confrontation with Iran, claims the editor-in-chief of a pro-Damascus Lebanese daily. It also demonstrates that Washington is not convinced of the effectiveness of its sanctions on Iran, and that it is hoping to open a back channel with Tehran via Oman. The Khashoggi affair is being used to blackmail Saudi Arabia politically and financially and to secure concessions from it, maintains a Saudi commentator. Under the guise of humanitarian concern, a number of leftist hacks in the West are seeking to end the war in Yemen and to ensure the victory of Iran's proxies.

 

OPENING THE DOOR TO A NEW PHASE: "U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis's unexpected call on Tuesday to end all military action in Yemen within 30 days has opened the door wide to a new phase that could end the raging Yemeni war that has become a factory for catastrophes and a giant and bloody mill that is grinding down the Yemeni people," writes Friday's editorial in the Qatari-owned, London-based, pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the American call and it was commended by both sides to the Yemeni conflict: President 'Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi's legitimate government that is backed by the Saudi-led military coalition, and the Iranian-backed Houthis. But it has been met with complete silence from Saudi Arabia and its allies so far.

The implications of the coalition's delayed response are clear. For when the Americans set a specific timeframe for ending all military action, that seems closer to a command than an entreaty. And since the current Yemeni war has been linked to Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman's name, he will judge this order to be directed at him in person. It represents a no-confidence vote in one of the most important pillars of the Saudi crown prince's rule.

The decision to go to war in Yemen was, in effect, a declaration by the crown prince that he has taken control of the Kingdom's military capabilities. It was also the prelude to a different sort of war waged against the Saudi interior that sought to impose a one-man rule over the Kingdom's political, security, financial, and media resources.

This paved the way for various forms of unprecedented arrogance exercised against the Saudi political and financial elite. In fact, this extended beyond the Kingdom's borders, and was inflicted on leading Arab and non-Arab figures such as Lebanese PM Sa'd al-Hariri, Palestinian/Jordanian businessman Sabih al-Masri, and Ethiopian/Saudi billionaire Mohammad Hussein al-Amoudi. It also led to exceptionally rash clashes with significant countries around the world, such as Germany and Canada.

And this arrogance reached its limits with the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a reckless and savage manner whose details continue to be revealed, eliciting global reactions that the Saudi crown prince's team had not expected.

Since all these major developments were linked to the rise of bin Salman and the small coterie around him, it was only natural for him to be held directly responsible for them, and for the fall-out from the Khashoggi affair to create pressures on the crown prince's protectors in U.S. President Donald Trump's administration.

It was also natural for the growing political and media demands to produce an American review of the dangerous consequences of the U.S.'s political investment and support for the young crown prince and all the catastrophic consequences that have occurred as a result in Yemen, the Arab region, within Saudi Arabia itself, and around the world.

In this sense, Washington's demand, backed by London, to end all military action in Saudi Arabia's disaster-stricken neighbor, and specifying a timetable of 30 days to achieve this aim, is not just about Yemen. It also seeks to record negative points on the political 'driving license' Washington has issued to bin Salman– perhaps as a prelude to withdrawing it completely if he does not comply. In other words, it represents the first step towards withdrawing the political cover the Trump administration has extended to the crown prince. And this is an extremely important development for the balance of political power inside the Kingdom.

A number of media outlets have suggested that the next step in the growing pressures on the crown prince consists of action to end the Saudi/Emirati/Bahraini blockade on Qatar. The third step has to do with restructuring the ruling equation inside the Kingdom and loosening bin Salman's hold on all its sources of power.

"In this sense, ending the war in Yemen is a necessary prelude to putting the Saudi household in order again, so as to end the series of political, financial, and military losses as a result of bin Salman's rising star," concludes the daily.

End…

 

SIGNIFICANT FORMULA: "The formula for ending the war in Yemen proposed by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is significant," notes Editor-in-Chief Nasser Qandil in Friday's pro-Damascus Lebanese daily al-Bina'.

He did not issue a merely political call; instead, he presented a practical calendar with a ceiling of 30 days to end the fighting and begin political negotiations. And he did so without bothering to visit Riyadh and consult with the Saudi leadership in its capacity as the U.S.'s strategic partner in the region – the previous description of the U.S./Saudi relationship used by Mattis and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Mattis's statement is closer to a military order to Saudi Arabia and Yemen to end the war. The rest consists of calls and demands made to the Yemeni leadership and Ansarullah [Houthis] in particular to accept an end to the Saudi and Emirati military operations in return for stopping the missile fire at Saudi territory. These calls received a clear response from the Ansarullah, linking any further discussion to the demand for a comprehensive end to hostilities, and for lifting the blockade imposed on Yemen as the first step to be taken in this regard.

The new balance in Yemen is now clear after the U.S. position. It places Ansarullah on equal footing with Washington, which has now declared that it has taken control of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their Yemeni backers' decision. It is also clear that Muscat will manage the negotiations between the American and Yemeni sides, and that Washington is doing this after forcing Muscat to pay for the prize of playing a mediation role by normalizing its relations with Israel.

But regardless of the fact that Ansarullah's relations with Iran are not that of lackey and its master, the geopolitical equations in the region are such that Saudi Arabia and the UAE's war in Yemen represents the gateway for ensuring [the U.S.'s] superiority over Iran in the seas, ground, and water passageways. The need for Saudi Arabia in the U.S.'s declared confrontation with Iran finds no clearer translation than in what the war on Yemen provides. Ending the war in Yemen by an American decision will compel the various parties to address the Yemeni demands and preconditions having to do with lifting the blockade. And this means that the Saudis have officially been forced to resign their role, especially in what Washington refers to as the 'confrontation with Iran.'

In practice, Washington is well aware that even without any coordination between Ansarullah and Iran, the preconditions for ending the war do not include the removal the Ansarullah's ballistic missiles. It also realizes that talk of international supervision over these missiles is a mere media delusion, and that the Ansarullah will not accept a temporary self-rule of the Yemeni areas. Washington also knows hand that the road will be open for a provisional government that paves the way for elections, and that the course of developments in Yemen will be no different from that in Syria, where the U.S.'s failure in the war against the independent Syrian state will be sufficient to declare Iran's victory.

What Iran is seeking, according to the American media and the research centers that the U.S. administration relies on in determining its policies, is to ensure that there will an independent, capable and combat-ready Syrian state on Palestine's borders, and there will be a Yemeni state that believes in its national independence on the Gulf and Red Sea's shores – a state that Washington cannot take under its wing directly or via Saudi Arabia. And this is something that Washington knows will happen as soon as the war whose end it has been trying to prevent, now actually ends.

The course of U.S. sanctions on Iran, and the fact that they coincide with what appears to be an important Yemeni message of openness to meeting Iranian interests, and the opening of a negotiating channel via Muscat – all raise a question concerning Washington's seriousness about heading towards a confrontation with Iran, and its confidence in its sanctions' ability to break Iran's will.

"For these sanctions have merely become a necessity for facilitating negotiations, after the cornerstone of the confrontation as represented by Saudi Arabia has been badly wounded and is being withdrawn from the arena," concludes Qandil.

End…

 

GLAD TIDINGS: "It is often said that crises bear glad tidings within their wombs; for changes emerge and at the lowest of prices from within the folds of problems," writes Mashari adh-Dhaydi in Friday's Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat.

Thanks to the problem resulting from the journalist Jamal Khashoggi's affair, the appetite of every party that has a demand or a bill to settle with the Saudi state has been whetted. Some want Saudi Arabia to end its hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood; others want it to stop confronting the Iranian threat; and other demands are being made, including some that are nothing short of financial blackmail.

Among the bills that Saudi Arabia is being asked to settle is one that calls upon it to stop confronting Iran's agents in Yemen – the Houthis – on the pretext of being merciful towards humanity. This is humanitarianism the likes of which we failed to see the British left's journalists shedding any tears for in the case of this century's greatest humanitarian catastrophe, namely, in Syria.

The British Guardian published an analysis by a hack by the name Patrick Wintour, who is the paper's diplomatic editor, as to how to use the Khashoggi crisis to compel Saudi Arabia to end its actions in Yemen that aim to erase the Iranian threat from that country. Wintour specifically referred to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman – the bane of the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, and the left everywhere. Our hack friend wants to intensify the pressures on Saudi Arabia regarding Yemen after Jamal Khashoggi's death because this is 'an opportunity not to be missed.'

What he is really saying meaning is this: Exploit the opportunity and transform the situation in Yemen in Iran's favor; and preoccupy Saudi Arabia with the Houthi cat's claws; and do this now since Saudi Arabia is suffering from the 'Jamal' [Khashoggi] crisis!

This crude political exploitation and stark blackmail of Saudi Arabia did not escape the notice of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, for example, who commented on the exploitation of the Khashoggi crisis to target Saudi Arabia thus: 'It is frightening for this tragedy to be magnified with so much political machination and fabrication that we see today.'

What Zakharova is referring to is obvious to any fair person who would tangibly notice it. For example, the researcher at Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute Lisat-Maria Neudert has written that Khashoggi's death has contributed to exposing how information and the social media are being manipulated to promote political aims.

As for the American initiative to stop the fighting in Yemen and to pave the path for a political solution there, neither Saudi Arabia nor the coalition members have said they oppose such a solution. In fact, Saudi Arabia's demand and aim was that of a political solution from day one. And we can all recall the Kuwaiti and Geneva negotiations regarding Yemen.

In fact, Saudi Arabia and the coalition have demonstrated their concern and made way for a political solution and halting their air raids on more than one occasion; but every time, the Houthis have viewed this matter as no more than a 'truce' during which to rally their ranks.

Al-Houthi will once again deal with the ceasefire as no more than a tactical truce. Yet Saudi Arabia and the coalition will continue to support the political efforts; and that is nothing new.

"But this is not the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is to ask people such as the British hack whether the UK would accept to reconcile with a bordering country ruled by a pro-Russian gang that fires missiles on London and Liverpool," concludes Dhayidi.

Ends…

 

2-  Prince Ahmad's return

 

Saudi Prince Ahmad bin 'Abdelaziz unexpected return to Riyadh has fuelled speculation of a shake-up at the summit of power in the Kingdom, says 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on today's pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com

 

The Khashoggi case continues to reverberate and have momentous consequences for Saudi Arabia and its ruling family, notes the editor-in-chief of an online pan-Arab daily. The return to Riyadh of one of King Salman's brothers who had mildly criticized the king and his crown-prince has led to speculation of imminent changes at the summit of power in Saudi Arabia.

 

THE PRINCE'S VISIT: "The visit to the UK by former Saudi interior minister Prince Ahmad bin 'Abdelaziz, who is also the youngest son of King 'Abdelaziz's seven sons from his Sudairi wife, had given rise to many questions," writes Editor-in-Chief 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.

This was especially after he confronted a group of protestors in front of his house, declaring: 'Do not blame the ruling family; blame those who have caused the war in Yemen.'

But his return to Riyadh and the fact that Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman was at the head of those receiving him have raised even larger questions and flung the door open to speculation regarding the Saudi throne's future 'surprise.'

Prince Ahmad left the Kingdom before journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder. But the prevailing view is that he would not have returned to Riyadh and been accorded such a special welcome had that murder not occurred, and had the current Saudi leadership not admitted to committing it and ordering a 'death squad' of 18 security officers along with a specialized pathologist to carry it out inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is currently the true ruler of the Kingdom due to his father's illness, has never shown his opponents any leniency, including those who did not pledge allegiance to him, whether members of the ruling family, or common folk. In fact, and at his own admission, some 1500 of these opponents, including some princes, are still behind bars. This is why it was noteworthy for him to receive the most prominent of these opponents, his uncle Prince Ahmad, who has never pledged allegiance to him. So was the fact that Prince Ahmad did not hang bin Salman's picture next to that of his father the King [Salman] and the picture of his grandfather, the Kingdom's founder, in his living room where he receives his guests in Riyadh.

A reliable Saudi source who resides in London has confirmed to us that Prince Ahmad bin 'Abdelaziz – who is married to his cousin, Prince Mohammad bin Nawwaf bin 'Abdelaziz Al Saud's daughter, the Saudi ambassador to London, was planning to stay in the British capital for a long period. His sudden return three weeks after Khashoggi's assassination could not have happened without some British and American 'arrangements' regarding restructuring the ruling regime in Riyadh via a 'white coup.'

It is difficult to guess what formula may emerge as a result of Prince Ahmad's contacts with American and British officials in London, then with others after his return to Riyadh. The most important contact was with Prince Talal bin 'Abdelaziz who used to head the Allegiance Council [the body responsible for determining future succession to the Saudi throne], but also with the former crown prince Prince Muqrin bin 'Abdelaziz, who was deposed by King Salman as soon as he rose to the throne, despite the late King 'Abdullah's instructions that he should remain crown prince and occupy throne if it became vacant for whatever reason.

Changing crown princes in the Kingdom has ceased to be a difficult process since King Salman ascended to the throne in 2015. Since that time, he has changed two crown princes with a few months. He replaced his brothers Prince Muqrin and Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, and made his son Prince Mohammad crown prince. In fact, and in light of many leaks and reports, it is not unlikely that we may be witnessing some movement in this regard in the next few weeks.

A number of questions need to be considered in this regard:

- First, in case there is a wish to appoint Prince Ahmad bin 'Abdelaziz in a leading post, what could it be? Will he be made king or crown prince? And if he is made king, who will be his crown prince?

- Second, has Prince Ahmad met with King Salman after his return or not? There are two reports in this regard, the first claiming that he has met with the King and the other denying that.

- Third, what is President Trump's administration's attitude towards Prince Ahmad bin 'Abdelaziz? Will it accept him as king or as crown prince?

- Fourth, what post will Saudi Arabia's current ambassador to Washington, Prince Khaled bin Salman, (who is was slated to replace 'Adel al-Jubeir as foreign minister within a short period) occupy? Will he be made crown prince if King Salman is removed from power and is officially replaced by his brother Mohammad bin Salman in a preemptive strike?

There is one important issue that needs to be taken into account, and that many people may not know. Prince Ahmad bin 'Abdelaziz did not visit Washington throughout the period when he occupied senior posts in the Saudi state – whether as deputy interior minister under his brother Prince Nayef, or when he succeeded Prince Nayef in that post. A Saudi friend of mine who visited him a number of times in his office has confirmed that Prince Ahmad never received any American official, and that Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who was in charge of security, was in charge of receiving such officials. In fact, Prince Mohammad bin Nayef had many disagreements with Prince Ahmad because he bypassed him on a number of issues and coordinated directly with the late King 'Abdullah and his Diwan instead.

The Saudi ruling family always tends towards secrecy when dealing with its internal affairs. For this reason, anything that can be said regarding these sensitive issues remains mere speculation, leaks, and analyses – which is why most of the family's decisions seem to be surprising and without any prelude.

In conclusion, we say that all that interests the U.S. – and the Trump administration in particular – which views its relations with Saudi Arabia as one of a strategic nature, is to ensure that the arms deals with Riyadh will continue. In fact, we think that there is no disagreement over this issue among the ruling family's princes, whether at the summit of power or powerless. We have said this before, and we repeat it now: The U.S. gives priority to its arms deals over its principles, and resorts to inciting minorities and partitioning states when dealing with those who oppose it.

The consequences of Khashoggi's murder will continue to be full of surprises and changes, and at the summit of power specifically. We are still at the beginning of this road, and what lies ahead is even more momentous.

"But God knows best!" concludes 'Atwan.

Ends…

 

3-  What Erdogan wants

 

Turkish President Erdogan's handling of the Khashoggi affair matter has nothing to do with the desire to punish the party behind the assassination; it is about restructuring the Saudi regime, says Mohammad Yaghi in today's Palestinian al-Ayyam

 

The manner in which Turkish President Erdogan has been handling the Khashoggi affair is part of his broader strategy for the Arab world, argues a leading Palestinian commentator. His campaign has focused on the Saudi crown prince who is seen as a major obstacle to that strategy; but there is no guarantee that this strategy will succeed in achieving Erdogan's goals even if it manages to remove the crown prince from power.

 

PHASED REVELATIONS: "Everyone now knows that Turkey knew the details of the heinous murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi only a few hours after it occurred," writes Mohammad Yaghi in Friday's leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

But instead of publicizing the facts at one go, Erdogan's Turkey chose to reveal them gradually and in phased installments that have still not reached their end.

Why choose this method that resembles Turkey's own long TV soap opera series? Was the release of the American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was accused of spying for the U.S., during the investigations into Khashoggi's murder a mere coincidence?

Moreover, why has Erdogan made every effort to preserve his friendship with the Saudi king, while continuing to target the crown prince at the same time?

To begin with, I should say that the episodes of this 'Turkish series' regarding Khashoggi's murder have still not reached their peak, and that Turkey is still holding back cards to use in its hard and simultaneous haggling with both Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

I believe that the matter has nothing to do with the desire to punish the party behind the assassination; or, more accurately, to seek justice in the Khashoggi case. It is about Turkey's strategy in the Arab world.

The release of the American pastor Brunson, after a surprise verdict of innocence, is intended to improve relations with the U.S. and hence to ensure its endorsement of the Turkish project that targets Saudi Arabia.

For in Turkey's view the Saudi crown prince is the man behind the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood's rule in Egypt, who pushed for hostility towards Qatar and for imposing a blockade it, and who abandoned support for Syria's 'rebels' and ended the Arab/Turkish alliance in addressing the Syrian dossier.

In all these files, Turkey was among the parties that was most harmed. To give an idea of the scale of Turkish interest in the Arab world, it is worth noting that over 3000 Arab journalists now reside in Turkey. Most work in satellite TV stations that broadcast to the Arab world, and most belong to the Muslim Brotherhood that became a pursued and suspect organization overnight, accused of conspiring with the U.S., despite its decades' long close relations with a number of Arab regimes.

Turkey is interested in the Arab world for economic, security, and ideological reasons. Economically, Turkey wants the Arab world as its largest trade market. It also wants to end its reliance on Iranian oil and Russian gas, replacing them with Arab oil and gas. But that cannot be achieved as long as the current Iranian regime remains in place, especially since Iran's hegemony over Iraq is even greater than its hegemony over Syria.

As for security, Turkey feels that the main threat comes from its Southern Syria/Iraqi borders where the Kurds are located. Toppling the Syrian regime and replacing it with a regime loyal to it would protect a significant part of its borders. And a regime in Syria that is loyal to Turkey can also play a role in Iraq in coalition with the civilian Sunni groups there.

And ideological terms, the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) is an advanced version of the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, the Brotherhood is the closest to the AKP ideologically; they are the horse that Erdogan believes he can ride to achieve his strategic aims in the Arab world.

Here, we should remember that the fact that Turkey has interests in the Arab world does not mean that the Arabs have to be hostile towards it. If the Arabs understand these interests correctly, they can build on them to benefit from Turkey in creating a regional balance that enables the Arab world to secure a higher level of political and economic independence.

For example, Turkey and Iran compete with each other in the region; but this has not prevented them from pursuing trade exchanges and trying to reach understandings over many political issues. This is what nation states that care for their interests do.

Regardless of the Khashoggi case, the Saudi crown prince's policies conflict with Turkey's strategy, and have been a major reasons for weakening, if not foiling them: He backed toppling the Brotherhood's rule in Egypt, imposed a blockade on Qatar that is Turkey's ally, declared the Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization, and withdrew from the Arab/Turkish alliance in Syria.

If my analysis is correct, then Erdogan's courtship of U.S. President Trump by releasing Brunson, as well as his courtship of the Saudi monarch by saying that Turkey respects and appreciates him, are intended to create an American/Saudi/Turkish consensus on the need to replace the crown prince with another member of the Saudi ruling family.

This will not restore to Turkey what it has lost strategically in the Arab world; but it could help lift the siege imposed on the Brotherhood in the Arab world and end the crisis with Qatar, and may improve Turkey's chances in Syria.

We say 'may' because there is no guarantee that changing Saudi Arabia's ruling structure will produce harmony in its positions with Turkey, especially since the current U.S. administration may not concur with Turkish strategy. But such a change would provide Turkey with a broader margin with to push forward its strategy in the Arab world.

Will Erdogan achieve his aim? I tend to believe that he is more likely to fail, for two main reasons:

- First, the U.S. under Trump does not want to bring about the change that Erdogan is seeking. Its current Middle East strategy has been built on the foundations of what is now in place in Saudi Arabia. Any change at the summit of Saudi power could mean a different policy towards Iran and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, to be added to the loss of financial deals worth tens-of-billions of dollars.

- Second, based on what they have seen and heard, Saudi citizens will reject foreign intervention. And this means that external pressures will add to the cohesion within the ruling family, backed by popular Saudi support.

"This will make it impossible to bring about any change," concludes Yaghi.

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 02.11.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

KHASHOGGI AFFAIR: Rauf Tamer is rendered speechless by the turn of events in centrist tabloid Posta: "Such brazenness is unheard of. Think about it: As if the lies they uttered from their diplomatic platforms were not enough, Saudi Arabia's chief prosecutor, who claims to be a man of law, also lies separately. There is nothing more one can say: I give up, dear readers. I can no longer bear to be treated like a fool."

Tamer Korkmaz charges Washington with a cover up in pro-government Yeni Safak: "Those who have appealed to the U.S. from the very beginning for the Khashoggi assassination to be resolved, are acting under a blind illusion to say the least. Jamal Khashoggi was not an American citizen, the murder was not committed on U.S. soil, and yet some have demanded that the U.S., which they describe as the 'land of freedoms', should reveal the perpetrators behind Jamal Khashoggi's assassination! But what is the reality? Let alone shedding light on the murder, the U.S. is juggling six things at the same time in order to cover it up!"

 

2019 LOCAL ELECTIONS: Yusuf Karatas claims that the government thrives on strife in leftist opposition Evrensel: "As we enter the period of local elections that will serve as a referendum on the country's new political regime, the area East of Euphrates has become the main item on our agenda. This is because the government realizes that it rather than peace, democracy or tranquility, it is pressure, tension and interference that are empowering. It thrives on this policy of tension. Therefore, although this policy causes the country, and the peoples to lose a lot, it helps the government to gain. That is why government representatives keep harping on the word war: 'War against terror', 'war against foreign powers', 'economic war'. It is always war!"

Sadrettin Karaduman does not lament the dissolution of the current parliamentary alliance in pro-Islamist opposition Milli Gazete: "The alliance between the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] and MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] has no future. This mandatory and problematic alliance has come to an end. However, two questions remain unanswered: First: Has MHP leader Devlet Bahceli, who was assigned to form this alliance, completed his mission? Second: Who, or which party, has this alliance, which was formed in the lead up to the June 2017 general elections, served? This alliance has ended because of its incompatibility with the electorate's blood type. This is more than enough to disperse it."

Nuh Albayrak warns against playing into the Kurds' hands in pro-government Star:" Most of the names that the people of Southeast Turkey respect are not involved in politics, and do not beg to be named a candidate. These are the ones that should be reached and convinced, asking them to act as candidates to serve the people. March 2019 is not a local election at all, and the results in the South East will be extra crucial. It should not be forgotten that each mistake will play into the HDP's [pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party] hands."

 

SEXUAL ABUSE: Rahmi Turan turns the spotlight on a grave social problem in opposition nationalist Sozcu: "The Khashoggi murder, U.S. pastor Brunson's case, the soldiers who froze to death, the Syrian swamp, etc.: We, as a society, have been stupefied by the chain of events one after another! We have so many issues to worry about. One of them is the rape of minors, both boys and girls! It is estimated that only a tenth of incidents get reported. Incest makes up 20 to 25 % of sexual abuse cases. We have to accept 'struggle against sexual child abuse' as a 'national duty'!"

 

Iran media watch

 

 

(Please note that Iranian newspapers do not publish on Fridays and Channel One (IRTV1) does not air its morning news bulletin.)

 

ROWHANI'S FT ARTICLE: Iranian broadcast media today led with President Hassan Rowhani's opinion piece published by the Financial Times yesterday in which he warned the world about the "dangers" posed by Washington's "unilateralism", and urged European countries to work with Iran against the U.S. State radio VIRI picked part of Rowhani's article ,where he urged Europe, Russia, and China to "present and implement their final proposed package of measures to compensate for and mitigate the effects of America's newest unilateral and extraterritorial sanctions before they are imposed." English language Press TV pitched into Rowhani's criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump's policies over the past two years, especially with regards to "complicity in the daily atrocities in Yemen," "humiliation and gradual perishing of the great nation of Palestine," among other things.

 

ARBA'EEN: Rolling news channel IRINN quoted the Interior Minister as saying that over 80 percent of Iranian pilgrims who had travelled to Iraq for the Arba'een Shiite mourning rituals have returned home. VIRI quoted the Minister as saying that over 12,000 buses were dispatched to border areas for pilgrim transport.

 

ISRAEL/BRAZIL: Press TV this morning led with Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro's announcement that he will move his country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The TV said Bolsonaro was a "staunch" supporter of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu. Political commentator Isaac Bigio told Press TV that Bolsonaro's move may prompt Colombia and other countries in South America to do the same, and predicted a "complete change" in the politics of the continent as a result.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Iranian users on Twitter have been posting comments in reaction to Iran International TV's Q&A with opposition figure Reza Pahlavi. Nearly 10,000 Tweets have been posted by over four-thousand genuine accounts over the past 24 hours after the London-based channel aired the recorded interview last night. Pahlavi was asked by the audience about his plans for his homeland in a post-Islamic Republic future. Many users shared a quote from him that the biggest betrayal to Iran today was being "indifferent" to the developing situation. Some described what he was promoting as "the first principle of patriotism". Some were happy to hear from the exiled son of the late Shah of Iran that once the Islamic establishment is gone, economic problems would no longer be a major problem. Others welcomed his secular views. However, a group of pro-regime users and pro-reform journalists expressed strong disapproval of Pahlavi's remarks.

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 01.11.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Between local and national

 

Iranian infrastructure and strategic networks have come under attack in the last few days by a computer virus similar to Stuxnet but "more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated". Israeli officials are refusing to discuss what role, if any, they may have had in the operation, an Israeli TV report said Wednesday. The report came hours after Israel said Mossad had thwarted an Iranian murder plot in Denmark, and two days after Iran acknowledged that President Hassan Rowhani's mobile phone had been bugged. It also follows a string of Israeli intelligence coups in Iran, including the extraction from Tehran in January of the contents of a vast archive documenting Iran's nuclear weapons program, and the detailing by Prime Minister Netanyahu at the UN in September of other alleged Iranian nuclear and missile assets inside Iran, in Syria and in Lebanon.

"Remember Stuxnet, the virus that penetrated the computers of the Iranian nuclear industry?" the report on Israel's Hadashot news asked. Iran "has admitted in the past few days that it is again facing a similar attack, from a more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated virus than before, that has hit infrastructure and strategic networks." The Iranians, the TV report went on, are "not admitting, of course, how much damage has been caused." On Sunday, Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran's civil defense agency, said Tehran had neutralized a new version of StuxnetReuters reports. "Recently we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts … and was trying to enter our systems," Jalali said. Wednesday's TV report noted that "in the past, the U.S. and Israel have been alleged to have worked together on operations." The report noted that "behind the scenes lately, Mossad," under its director Yossi Cohen, has been "fighting a real shadow war." Without attributing responsibility to Mossad, the report mentioned the tapping of Rouhani's phone, noting that the Iranians "had to switch it for an encrypted model because they understand that someone has been listening to him for days and weeks."

Meanwhile, Mossad provided Denmark with information that thwarted an Iranian plot to assassinate an Iranian separatist leader in the Scandinavian country, it was revealed on Wednesday. According to a KAN report, information from Mossad is what led to the arrest of the suspect in the alleged plot. Mossad was also responsible for providing information to French authorities in June about a plan to attack a meeting of Iranian opposition figures there.

In Gaza, Israel has agreed to allow Qatar to transfer funds to Hamas to pay the salaries of its civil servants, media outlets in Gaza reported Wednesday. According to the reports, this was made possible after Israel negotiated with Qatar and received guarantees that the money will be transferred only for the stated purpose. It remains unclear whether Israel has agreed in principle only or whether the details have been finalized and an overall agreement signed. A senior diplomatic source told reporters this week that Israel is interested in promoting the Qatari transfer to Hamas in order to prevent a humanitarian collapse "that will end up exploding in our faces." Hamas' Finance Ministry in Gaza will reportedly use the Qatari funding to pay the salaries over the next two weeks. Gaza's Finance Ministry has prepared the list of officials who will receive the payments, as requested by the Qataris. It is still unknown whether security officials in the police and the security forces will also receive their salaries from the Qatari money. Hamas has been demanding for years that the Palestinian Authority pay the salaries of public-sector workers whom Hamas hired since it took power of the Strip in 2007. Ramallah insists that it first be given full control of all government activities in Gaza, including tax collection and payments.  PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas has used the salary payment issue as a punitive measure against Hamas.

In other news, more than half of the Israelis (51 percent) oppose holding talks with Hamas for a long-term ceasefire arrangement, according to the Israeli Foreign Policy Index (IFPI) report. Only 32% are in favor of holding talks with the group. Despite the opposition to an agreement with Gaza's rulers, 43% percent of the Israelis wish the government would improve the living conditions in the strip, while 38% think increasing economic pressure on the area is the right policy. In addition, the report shows that 50% of Israel's population want the government to go back to the negotiating table in order to achieve a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority, while 49% believe that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not essential when it comes to establishing better relations with the Arab world. Nevertheless, 33% of citizens are convinced that a breakthrough in relations with the Arab states is dependent on normalization of relations with the Palestinian Authority. A large majority of the Israeli public (69%) believes that regional cooperation between Israel and the Middle East countries is possible. However, 41% do not want to visit any Arab country, even when relations between the two countries are normal. 28% of the respondents believe that Israel should not promote cooperation with the Arab countries. Those who believe in the importance of developing relationship with the Arab world, think Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the two most important Muslim countries with which cooperation should be developed. The other foreign policy related issues that arouse concern among the Israeli public—besides the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and relations with the Arab world—are Israel's ties with Russia and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Israelis see Russia as the most important country besides the U.S., followed by Germany, UK, China, France and Egypt. Most of the Israeli public believes that the European Union today is more of a foe to Israel (55%) than a friend (18%). The public is also divided on whether Israel should work to improve its relations with Turkey, with 42% being in favor and 45% opposing it. When it comes to Israel-U.S. relations, the respondents ranked them at 7.75 out of 10, with 63% describing the relations as good, compared to 41% last year.

In news of Israeli-Egyptian relations, Delek Drilling's partner in the EMG gas pipeline to Egypt, the Egyptian company East Gas, is owned by Egypt's intelligence service, Egyptian news site Mada Masr reported. East Gas, the main beneficiary of plans to export Israeli natural gas to Egypt's private consortium Dolphinus Holdings via the EMG pipeline, is a private company, most of whose shares are held by Egypt's intelligence service, says the report. "The gas import deal – scheduled to come into effect early next year – found that the repeated claims by Egyptian government officials that the venture is a purely private sector affair wholly outside the 'government framework' are misleading at best," stated Mada Masr in its report. The intelligence service is slated to receive 80% of East Gas's income. Egyptian intelligence also has an interest in Dolphinus. "Documents and sources reveal that through a complex web of overseas shell corporations and subsidiaries, the intelligence body stands to cash in at all stages of the deal, from the transport of Israeli gas to Egypt to its final sale to the Egyptian government. These profits end up in the coffers of the GIS, and not the public budget," states Mada Masr. Israel is supposed to start exporting gas to Egypt's Dolphinus in March 2019, via the EMG pipeline. The gas, from Israel's Tamar and Leviathan reserves, is valued at $15 billion.

Finally, Prime Minister Netanyahu is likely to attend the inauguration on January 1 of Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, a symbolic step that would signify a dramatic change in relations between the two countries. Bolsonaro responded by posting on Facebook that "I have just received incredible words from the prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as from Israel's Ambassador Yossi Shelley. Our friendly ties will undoubtedly result in mutual agreements that will surely benefit both of our nations and citizens." Less than 24 hours after the announcement of his victory, Bolsonaro welcomed Shelley and the Israeli honorary consul in Rio for a private meeting in his apartment. Bolsonaro, an Evangelical Christian, said during his campaign that Israel would be the first country he would visit as president, that he will move the country's embassy to Jerusalem, and that he will close the Palestinian embassy in Brazil because Palestine is not a country. "Last year I went to Israel for eight days," he said in an i24 interview last month. "I felt it was another country with which we could develop closer ties. I went to see what agriculture is like in a desert. How could a place with precipitation levels that are lower than in our Northeastern regions have enough food for itself and be able to export some of its food to Europe while the Northeast of Brazil is starving?" He said that Israel and Brazil should "team up."

 

 

NETANYAHU'S POWER IS DWINDLING: Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth writes that running under Netanyahu's personal endorsement and the Likud Banner was not worth much in the municipal elections. Meanwhile, the ultra-orthodox voters acted independently, defying their Rabbi's orders. Will these trends carry over to the national elections?

"At the entrance to Yeruham, between the lake and the city, stands a large billboard with a photograph; Netanyahu in a joint picture with Nili Aharon, the Likud candidate for mayor. The Patron and his protégé. Netanyahu in a gray business suit, foreign to the scorching Negev sun, authoritarian and remote. And Aharon, the excited groupie.

Similar twosome pictures were placed on the eve of the elections in other communities. The largest of them was hung on the wall of one of the hotels at the entrance to Jerusalem; Netanyahu and Elkin; a couple whose height, on the wall at least, was six stories high. Netanyahu chose who to be photographed with, on whose behalf he would make calls, in whose assemblies he would make an appearance, and from whose he would abstain. Some of the winners ran with Likud, others ran against it. The accounts were personal; the desires destructive.

Jerusalem and Yeruham are die-hard Likud-supporting communities. Nevertheless, Elkin and Aharon were defeated badly at the ballot box. Elkin received 19.8 percent of the vote, and came in third out of four; Aharon received 32 percent, compared with 59 percent garnered by the winner, Tal Ohana. Aharon's candidacy, in accordance with a review of election results throughout the country, shows that Netanyahu's choice had no decisive influence, or had no effect whatsoever. Those who won did so in their own right, and the losers lost all by themselves. Aharon, Miri Regev's protégé, was forced upon the local Likud branch. 'We love you Bibi, we vote for Tal Ohana', was the battle cry adopted by Likudniks in Yeruham. This does not mean much for the upcoming Knesset elections, but it does mean something about what is happening to Netanyahu and to the party he heads.

The second point that is relevant for national politics is the split in the ultra-orthodox sector. Gafni and Deri against Litzman and Porush, Lithuanians and Sephardim against Hassidim. Many things can happen in this sector until the elections, from the disintegration of United Torah Judaism into two rival parties, to the unification of all three, or the unification of Degel Hatorah and Shas, leaving the Hassidic Agudat Yisrael fluttering on the brink of the electoral threshold. The historic division of power between the Hassidim and the Lithuanians was based on the assumption that the Hassidim bring more votes. They received more seats on joint lists, more positions of power. The election results in Jerusalem require a new index.

And perhaps the index itself has ceased to be relevant. A new generation of ultra-Orthodox has arisen, one that feels it has power and is unwilling to automatically put it into the pockets of Rabbis. The ultra-orthodox were active in almost all the lists in the mixed cities. They operated openly, together with those wearing knitted yarmulkes and sworn seculars, on the same social networks, in the same headquarters. Perhaps the talk of an Israeli society divided into separate, hostile tribes, was premature. The real test will be in the national elections."

Ends…

 

KOCHAVI'S MAIN TASK IS TO AVOID NEEDLESS BATTLES: Ran Edelist in Maariv argues that although the new chief of staff must prepare the army for war, it will be his job to halt before the slippery slope, where the philosophy represented by Eleor Azaria and the right-wing Rabbis rules the day.

"The chief of staff's job is to prepare the army for war. This includes the army's fighting spirit, but mainly the avoidance of unnecessary battles that are the product of warped politics and distorted ideologies. I do not pretend to be knowledgeable in the building of the army's force, but the problem is that the IDF has not fought since Lebanon 2006. Hunting down terrorists and violent policing in the territories are not a war, and the reality today is no different than it was in 2006. In addition, there is a real problem regarding the motivation to fight among those who do not agree with the government's policy.

On the other hand, this is a democratic state, etc., and the result is the campaigns between the wars; those small wars in the meantime. The wisdom of the small wars is avoiding getting dragged into a large and unnecessary war in the North and South. This is Eizenkot's great success. The chief of staff is supposed to be the commander of the army, from the General Staff forum to the last of the privates, but also a politician – to be able to deal with a castrated, frightened and aggressive Cabinet; and even a statesman, in order to plan his actions in order to ensure that military activity will not damage Israel's political standing in the world.

It also appropriate that the chief of staff be a moral man, or as Kochavi himself put it in an interview about 10 years ago: 'A moral army, like a person, is a body that constantly makes an effort to be moral. But even moral people can sin. The question is what the general spirit is. From my experience, this is an army for which this issue is constantly on the agenda. Have the moral questions been at the same level of intensity throughout the past five years? I am not so sure'.

Dr. Niv Gordon, a lecturer in philosophy who was Kochavi's teacher, accused him in the past of war crimes because he commanded an operation for the liquidation of terrorists in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. In response, Kochavi wrote him: 'I have to fulfill my duty toward three moral imperatives: My moral obligation to my soldiers, my moral duty as a human being, and my moral obligation to the citizens of the State of Israel! As long as I am a man and the ranks of an officer in the IDF are placed on my shoulders, I will continue to stand in the center of the triangle. I will not give up any side and will work tirelessly to connect the three sides. At the end of the day we will be left alone, me, my obligations and my conscience'. Kochavi is right in his diagnosis, but his job is not to juggle practical philosophy, as he wrote to Gordon, but to stop before the slippery slope, where the practical philosophy is represented by Eleor Azaria and the right-wing Rabbis."

Ends…

 

ISRAEL MUST HALT THE PALESTINIAN TAKEOVER: Dr. Anat Rot in Israel Hayom claims the Palestinians are invaders and Israel must immediately evacuate Khan al-Ahmar, remove all other Palestinian outposts, stop the PA's takeover on the ground – and start ruling like a landlord.

"The Khan al-Ahmar affair infuriates many Israelis for various reasons. It illustrates the discrimination between the Palestinian invaders and the settlers of Migron, Giv'at Haolpana, Amona and Nativ Ha'avot – in whose cases the state strictly adhered to the ruling by the High Court of Justice. The affair hints at the government's helplessness regarding the activities of leftist organizations, the media atmosphere and the diplomatic pressure. It conveys a message of limpness and lack of governance in the face of delinquency and illegal activity in strategic areas, and indicates the unwillingness of the state to implement its decisions.

But most disturbing is the lack of a decisive response to a phenomenon that poses a significant threat at Israel's doorstep. The Bedouin outpost of Khan al-Ahmar is not an exceptional case of illegal Palestinian construction. This is a comprehensive campaign waged by the Palestinian Authority against the State of Israel during the past decade, in order to gain control of strategic areas in Area C – which is under Israeli civil and security control - in violation of the Oslo Accords. This strategic move was initiated and led by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In 2008, Fayyad established an official bureau for coordinating activities on the ground (UAWC), which is funded by tens of millions of euros from EU countries.

This creeping takeover is made possible, first of all, through the systematic and organized settlement of Palestinians in selected strategic areas. Those willing to man abandoned buildings and areas receive economic incentives from the PA. In addition, these areas benefit from investment in infrastructure – from paving roads to developing water reservoirs, stretching pipes and installing irrigation systems. Finally, this settlement activity is accelerated by agriculture. The populated areas receive systematic agricultural development – terraces, grazing areas and crop processing - largely at the initiative of the governments of the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

Located in area E1 and adjacent to Route 1, Israel's central latitude highway, Khan al-Ahmar is one example of many of the Palestinian Authority's efforts to control strategic areas through settlement. There are dozens of similar illegal outposts on the ground that house tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The solution proposed by the State of Israel to the residents of Khan al-Ahmar can significantly improve their standard of living. If their wellbeing was foremost on the minds of the PA and its supporters, they would readily accept this proposal. However, as far as Palestinian leaders are concerned, moving the residents to another location harms the efforts to take over Highway 1, and therefore they are working diligently to torpedo the government's proposal.

Although there is no official change in the status quo, there has recently been the impression of a gradual movement toward Israeli annexation of Area C. This is a false impression. In recent years, especially since Ayelet Shaked became Minister of Justice, important steps have been taken in regulating the settlements and normalizing life in Judea and Samaria; legislation in the Knesset is being adapted to Judea and Samaria and there is an effort to repel the offensive of anti-settlements appeals to the High Court of Justice. However, right under our noses, the Palestinian Authority is flooding the ground with tens of thousands of squatters and through them is carrying out a creeping annexation of Area C. To date, the Palestinian invasion covers seven percent of Area C. The area of Palestinian settlement is almost three times larger than that on which the entire Jewish settlement enterprise is situated.

The Palestinians and their partners believe that establishing facts on the ground constitutes an irreversible reality, and that any territory they have managed to take control of will remain in their hands in any future arrangement. The government's capitulation to pressure from those working to harm Israel's interest sends a message of lack of governance, and encourages further criminality. The immediate evacuation of the Khan al-Ahmar outpost is therefore essential in order to clarify that the facts that have been illegally established on the ground can be reversed. Israel must urgently formulate a comprehensive plan for removing other Palestinian outposts, stopping the PA's takeover on the ground - and beginning to rule like landlords."

Ends…

 

THE ONLY WEAPON THAT CAN RESTORE QUIET TO GAZA: Amir Buhbot in Walla! states that Lieberman tried to intensify the response to terror organizations but was unable to sway the Cabinet. Netanyahu and Eizenkot share a conciliatory stance, and we are headed towards a dangerous escalation.

"Defense minister Lieberman believes that the time has come to launch a sweeping and broad offensive against Gaza by attacking quality targets belonging to the terrorist organizations in the Strip, but was unable to sway the political-security Cabinet to get behind him. That is how the current tension in the Netanyahu/Lieberman/Eizenkot triangle was created. At the moment, the prime minister is united with the chief of staff. But if the situation continues this way and Hamas does not restrain itself and the forces in Gaza, the moment will come when it will be too late and the IDF will really find itself in a no-choice campaign.

Despite the spins and headlines concerning an arrangement and talk of a fragile period that will end in a long-term lull in return for Palestinian getting returns such as Qatari fuel; Palestinian violence has intensified and the initiative is undoubtedly on the Palestinian side, and has long been out of the hands of the IDF, who has enabled the current reality to develop. Lieberman believes - this is not a time for waiting idly and patiently for the end of the process or the deliberations, because the more achievements are offered to the terrorist organizations, the more they will want. According to his approach, they must be shown Israel's tough side, followed by the soft side later on. But as always, talk is one thing and deeds something different altogether. Netanyahu and Eizenkot remain unconvinced as the Cabinet.

Islamic Jihad is operating according to directives from Damascus, and is not really interested in breaking the rules of the game. If it were, it would launch heavier barrages at Tel Aviv and Be'er Sheva. The organization is examining just how far it can go and is mainly interested in creating new equations - to enter the game in which until now it has been a bystander watching from the sidelines, except for the demonstrations on the fence. The organization is exploiting a position of power as the Iranians channel money to Hamas and funding its military wing. The broad operation of Islamic Jihad fits well with the lack of IDF initiative in Gaza. As soon as an organized and armed terrorist organization understands that on the Israeli side there is no intention of launching a campaign and using the most threatening tool - targeted assassinations, in addition to shooting at demonstrators on the fence – it broadens its actions, and launches rocket barrages against Israel.

More than 30 rockets were fired by Jihad during the weekend, and Iron Dome intercepted those that were destined to explode in built-up areas. In response, the IDF attacked more than 80 targets, including Hamas headquarters in Gaza. These were sensitive attacks, and it was not for nothing that the IDF Spokesperson announced that they had been preceded by messages sent to the Palestinians, calling them to leave the structures. No one was killed, and according to the Palestinian street and the social networks, Gaza is not impressed by the numbers. On the other hand, no one really understands what the IAF attacked, and therefore the effect on the sense of security on the Israeli side is also low.

Of all the targets attacked, only a handful were Islamic Jihad's and most of those were unimportant. The IDF is trying to impose restraint on Hamas, so that it will be the one to exert pressure on Jihad. If that does not work, there will soon be more significant attacks on Islamic Jihad. The question will then be: Real-estate assets or operatives and senior leadership? Only targeted assassinations can restore deterrence to Gaza, but it also bears the risk of plunging the region in a war that carries a heavy price on both sides. That is why the prime minister and the chief of staff think we should wait

Ends…

 

WILL TRUMP'S MIDEAST POLICY BE AN EXPLOSIVE FAILURE?: Daniel Shapiro in Haaretz claims Trump's two year Mideast policy scoreboard is a mixed picture of partial successes that face deep challenges. The Midterms will determine if the administration's wilder policy instincts will be constrained.

"Middle East policy is unlikely to determine the outcome of next week's mid-term elections in the United States. Voters will more likely be motivated by their sense of their economic well-being and prospects, the social and political tensions dividing America, and whether they want a more unleashed or a more constrained President Donald Trump. But it bears evaluating how Trump's Middle East record stacks up at the halfway point of his term, and considering the paths it is likely to take depending on the election results.

On a range of issues, Trump has achieved at least a partial success. In Syria, U.S. and allied forces have nearly completed the campaign to destroy ISIS, and U.S. strikes on Assad following chemical attacks seem to have deterred the dictator from resorting to the use of those weapons (although not other atrocities against regime opponents). Trump's Iran gambit, withdrawing from the nuclear deal and imposing harsh unilateral sanctions, is generating far more pressure on the Iranian economy and regime than many observers predicted could be achieved at this point. Even tougher blows are still to come when full oil sanctions are restored in November. In Israel, Trump enjoys widespread popularity, a product of his unstinting support, his warm relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Iran decision, and his historic relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Regionally, the United States maintains partnerships with a coalition of Israel and Arab allies, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, and has pushed hard for openings toward normalization between Israel and Arab states. Netanyahu's visit to Oman and the Israeli athletic teams competing in the UAE are recent dividends on that strategy.

Each of these areas of progress, however, are incomplete, and many run parallel to ongoing challenges. Some initiatives drift with low prospects of resolution. Trump's ability to consolidate the gains and advance further toward his goals, will be tested in 2019. In Syria, the Assad regime has been stabilized through brutal crushing of the opposition, and Russia has emerged as the dominant player. Israel is working hard, with U.S. support, to protect its interests by acting kinetically to disrupt Iran's ongoing efforts to entrench threatening military assets in Syria. But Russia's willingness to accommodate Israeli action is being tested following the downing of a Russian military aircraft by Syrian air defense units. Overall, the United States is largely absent from efforts to shape the post-war Syrian reality now emerging, raising questions about its ability to ensure that U.S. and Israeli interests are protected.

The Iran strategy, so far, involves the United States acting alone. While acquiescent to some secondary sanctions, no European country has followed the United States out of the nuclear deal. And the desired endgame is far from clear. After sanctions impose a further bite on Iran, then what? Will the United States entertain negotiations with Iran on a new nuclear agreement, and if so, what kind of agreement would be considered success? What are the chances one could be reached? And if Iran pulls out of the agreement and resumes uranium enrichment to the threshold of nuclear breakout it was at before the JCPOA; would the United States pursue a military option or give Israel a green light to do so? If Trump has answers to these questions, they remain opaque

The Israeli-Palestinian peace effort, meanwhile, seems hopelessly stuck. That is not Trump's fault, given the deep and abiding mistrust between the two sides, but the extreme Palestinian reaction to the Jerusalem announcement, and subsequent blows by the administration against the Palestinians, cutting off nearly all U.S. non-security assistance, has left the United States unable to conduct even a rudimentary dialogue with a Palestinian partner. With no channel to one of the parties, no prospects for a deal or even negotiations between the current leaders, and Israeli elections around the corner, Trump may simply decide never to present his plan for the ultimate deal.

And while the regional partnerships have borne fruit, they are also susceptible to the whims of unreliable players. The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, on the heels of Saudi missteps with Qatar, Lebanon, and Canada, and a grinding war with devastating civilian suffering in Yemen, raise questions about the reliability and effectiveness of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is supposed to be the strategic anchor of the U.S.-led anti-Iran regional coalition.

Can Trump rally to advance on this complex agenda? Sustained attention is one challenge. His foreign policy interests run toward consolidating his friendship with Russia's Vladimir Putin and reaching a nuclear agreement with North Korea's Kim Jung Un. He will soon turn his focus toward his own reelection campaign. And in the coming months, Special Counsel Robert Mueller may issue a report that could derail his presidency.

Meanwhile, if Democrats gain control of even one house of Congress, their ability to clip Trump's wings, through hearings, investigations, and subpoenas, will be formidable. Under these circumstances, Trump and his national security team will be tested in a way they have not been yet: Building bipartisan support in Congress for controversial foreign policy initiatives. To succeed on rolling back Iran's nuclear program further, to ensure a robust U.S. military presence in Syria as leverage for the diplomatic endgame of the civil war, to effectively pressure and incentivize the Palestinians to come back to the negotiation table and to keep the newly troubled relationship with Saudi Arabia on track, Trump will need Congressional help. Democrats, if they finally control the gavels, may be slow to provide it. If, on the other hand, Republicans maintain full control on Capitol Hill, Trump will have few, if any constraints. A full-on confrontation with Iran, an unrestrained Saudi Arabia, a collapsed Palestinian Authority, and a fully Russian-dominated Syria could all come to pass.

Americans often choose divided government as a way of keeping the parties' policy agendas in balance. With the Middle East in a delicate phase, and U.S. decisions that can inflame it or keep it calm still pending, there may be wisdom in that approach."

Ends…

 

NEW WEST BANK LEADERSHIP CRACKS SETTLER UNITY: Jacob Magid in The Times of Israel proclaims that municipal election results embolden the camp of council chairs who prefer working outside of the Judea and Samaria umbrella body to advance policies on behalf of Israelis over Green Line.

"Twenty-two elections were held in Israeli municipalities over the Green Line Tuesday, and while the majority saw incumbents maintain their positions as council chairs, six municipalities woke up Wednesday to new leadership after upsets that could upend the political makeup of the settlement movement.

Israel's 2005 pullout from 25 communities in the Gaza Strip and Northern West Bank caused a split among settler leaders between those affiliated with the establishment and those who thought more could have been done to prevent the government from carrying out its decision. The former camp sees lobbying as a unified front for policies benefiting their constituents as most effective. But the ability of a number of more outspoken council chairs to achieve results on their own has others wondering whether moderating their views in order to maintain a consensus on issues within the Yesha (Judea and Samaria) settlement umbrella council is worth the compromise. That rupture has been most noticeable at meetings of the Yesha Council, where no small amount of chairs have been vacant over the past decade, despite an open invitation to all settlement leaders.

Current Yesha Council chairman Hananel Dorani, like his predecessors, has worked to reunite the leaders of the Israeli local and regional councils beyond the Green Line. However, Tuesday's results largely gave a boost to those uninterested in working as a unified front. In the Binyamin Regional Council, Yisrael Gantz narrowly defeated Shiloh Adler 50.3 percent to 49.7%, capping a mudslinging campaign that frequently got personal. Both had aimed to replace outgoing chairman and former Yesha Council head Avi Roeh in one of just two races in the West Bank that did not feature an incumbent candidate. But while the 1,000 vote margin (out of 22,000) may have been razor-thin, the candidates differed starkly in their feelings toward the Yesha Council, and by extension, on the importance of settler unity.

Adler, until announcing his candidacy, had served as secretary-general of the umbrella body. Gantz, on the other hand, had campaigned on a platform that attacked the 'old establishment' Yesha Council for neglecting the interests of settlers. He has been known to take a more combative approach to advancing pro-settler policy and has been unafraid of criticizing one of the most right-wing governments in Israeli history. This bold attitude earned him the endorsement of anti-establishment heavyweights such as Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich.

Of the five races in the West Bank that saw the incumbent unseated, Eliyahu Libman's victory over Melachi Levinger in the Kiryat Arba-Hebron Local Council may have been the most consequential. Levinger had chaired the Southern West Bank municipality for the past 10 years and had worked closely with the Yesha Council. Libman, for his part, enjoyed the support of far-right activists such as Otzma Yehudit's Baruch Marzel, who have long criticized the Yesha Council for taking what they view as a non-confrontational approach to disagreements with the government.

Since his shock victory in the special elections called after the 2017 resignation of former Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Pearl, Shlomo Ne'eman has been viewed as a rising star in settler politics and a rumored candidate for Yesha Council chair. However, the 45-year-old resident of Karmei Tzur was unable to garner 40% of the vote on Tuesday and will face Moshe Seville in a runoff on November 13. Seville is viewed as a mentee and ally of Samaria Regional Council chair Yossi Dagan, who has long refused to work within the Yesha Council.

Among the 14 incumbents who managed to maintain their seats were a group of chairs who have long deemed the Yesha Council as ineffective and have been absent at the umbrella body's monthly meetings. They include Samaria Regional Council head Dagan, Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani, Har Hebron Regional Council head Yochai Damari and Karnei Shomron Local Council head Yigal Lahav who each handily won their respective races. Rather than working within the confines of the Yesha Council, the four have worked to establish close personal ties to various members of the government, speaking on behalf of their own residents rather than the broader settler movement.

In the Kedumim Local Council, Dorani cruised to a third term in office, garnering nearly 70% of the vote. But with the results of Tuesday's elections, his second job as Yesha Council chair is poised to be a much greater challenge."

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 01.11.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

SYRIAN SETTLEMENT: Sedat Ergin laments the slow progress towards a Syrian settlement in center-right Hurriyet: "The key person is UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura. Mistura, whose term of office is due to end this month, has extended the list of 50 people to join the talks that he has prepared after long consultations with the Assad regime. He was actually in Damascus last week to discuss this list. But Syria has rejected this list. So summits are convening to underline the need for a diplomatic solution, on the one hand, but the process has made a painful start, on the other."

 

LOCAL ELECTIONS: Mehmet Acet deciphers the rumors emanating from the ruling party's current ally in pro-government Yeni Safak: "I wonder whether the rumors spreading from the halls of the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] that they are considering nominating Melih Gokcek for the mayor of Ankara and Bedrettin Dalan for Istanbul, are intended as a message to the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party], rather than a genuine candidate announcement? As far as we can understand it, the MHP leader has made these statements in the belief that the AKP is unwilling to form an electoral alliance and is unwilling to continue the talks."

Mehmet Barlas poses an unanswerable question in pro-government Sabah: "Is Eskisehir Mayor Yilmaz Buyukersen not one of the people who is considered to be the future, despite actually representing the past? Would the magic of his name not be destroyed if Melih Gokcek, who served as Ankara mayor for over 20 years, goes back to square one and becomes another party's candidate for the Eskisehir Municipality in upcoming local elections?"

 

THE ECONOMY: Can Atakli accuses the Central Bank of playing politics in opposition Korkusuz: "Turkey's inflation rate was previously estimated to go down to 9.3 percent in 2019 and 6.7 percent in 2020. Yesterday, however, the Central Bank said its inflation expectations had gone up to 23.5 percent. According to the bank's calculations that often make projections that are proven to be false by a wide margin, it would not be surprising if the inflation rate were to go higher than 30 percent. It seems like the Central Bank is making all kinds of reason-defying calculations in the hope of proving Erdogan right, and is coming up with more unrealistic estimates."  

Fikri Saglar blames the ruling party for the country's economic woes in leftist opposition Birgun: "Turkey is currently going through the deepest economic and social crisis in its history. The AKP's populism is the reason for this economic downfall and social destruction! If this continues for much longer, Turkey is certain to face may more serious issues than those it faces today."

 

Iran media watch

 

DENMARK PLOT: Iranian broadcast media today led with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's Tweet accusing Israeli intelligence of "perverse and stubborn planting of false flags" against the Islamic Republic. His comment came after reports said the Mossad intelligence service had tipped off its Danish counterpart to an alleged plot by the Islamic Republic's intelligence service to assassinate an Iranian-Arab opposition figure in Denmark. State radio VIRI quoted Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi as saying that Denmark's envoy to Tehran was summoned and informed of Iran's "repudiation of hasty political and media accusations" made by some Danish officials. Denmark had earlier recalled its ambassador to Iran for consultations. Some dailies suspected that the allegations were aimed at damaging Iran/EU relations ahead of a new round of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic scheduled to be enforced on 4 November. "Denmark's suspicious behaviour ahead of 4 November," read a headline in moderate Arman-e Emruz, while hardline daily Javan wrote: "Israelis in Denmark in support of terrorists." Another hardline daily, Keyhan, ran a report on what it called "a series of terror allegations" and opined that they were all part of "Europe's plot" to dodge its commitments regarding the Iranian nuclear deal (JCPOA). "Copenhagen, new piece of anti-Iranian puzzle in Europe," read reformist Mardom Salari's front-page headline.

 

ZARIF IN PAKISTAN: Zarif is in Pakistan to pursue the release of Iranian border guards kidnapped at a border area last month. On 15 October, Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), a militant Sunni group, abducted a number of Iranian servicemen based at a border guard station in south-eastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province and took them to a hideout in Pakistan. English-language Press TV reported on Zarif's talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan over the latest developments concerning the abducted border guards. Initial reports had said that 14 border guards were kidnapped; state media now puts the number at 12.

 

ROWHANI REMARKS: Several newspapers have highlighted remarks made yesterday by President Rowhani days ahead of a new round of U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic comes into effect. Pro-reform Ebtekar quoted Rowhani as saying that "America will not achieve its goals", while hardline Javan highlighted part of his speech where he said Washington was "retreating step by step" from its anti-Iran stance. Sedaye Eslahat predicted that November will be a difficult month for President Rowhani. "4 November in Iran's history is a reminder of U.S. crimes," wrote centrist Jomhouri-e Eslami quoting Rowhani, in a reference to the various occasions marked on the day, including Student Day and the anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Iranian anti-regime users have launched yet another Twitter campaign (23,000 Tweets in the last day) in English, urging European countries to cut business ties with the Islamic Republic over its alleged plots to assassinate foreign-based dissidents. "The events in Denmark and France have proven that Europe's support for the Islamic Republic actually means protecting terrorism," one user wrote.

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 01.11.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-The simple truth

2-Between threats and action

3-The new American scheme

 

1-  The simple truth

 

The U.S. officials who have suddenly woken up to the war in Yemen and want to end it within a matter of days have not done so out of concern for the Yemeni people's blood and lives. They want to help the Saudi-coalition find a way out of this trap that has destroyed its image around the world, bled its fortunes (the war's cost stands at $9 billion each month), and is beginning to produce negative results, most importantly fragmenting the [Saudi] Kingdom, undermining its security and stability, bleeding it financially, and destroying its and its Emirati ally's economy as a result the increasing number of [Houthi] missiles that are becoming more accurate in striking their [Saudi] targets. We may have exaggerated a little when we attributed this 'rush' to end the war to Khashoggi's murder and its effects on Saudi Arabia. But we attribute the main cause of this to the Yemeni people in particular, who have fought ferociously in defense of their land, dignity, history, and Arabism. Without this heroic steadfastness, this war would not have lasted for almost four years. This is the simple truth that cannot be denied--'Abdelbari 'Atwan on pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com

Let us imagine the state of affairs in Yemen if the Houthi coup had managed to consolidate its legitimacy, take hold of the country's foreign relations, and succeeded in transforming Yemen into an Iranian base and missile launching-pad that would have threatened the entire Southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. Saudi Arabia and its allies have prevented Yemen from falling into the abyss of becoming an ideological state led by slogans and ruled by a religious authority that believes that it derives its legitimacy from God. So, when the international community demands an end to the war in Yemen, it must specify the bases on which the war will end--Khaled as-Suleiman in Saudi Okaz

 

The one positive outcome of Khashoggi's murder is that it may now be used as a gateway to end the war on Yemen, suggests the editor-in-chief of an online pan-Arab daily. But this would not have been possible without the Yemeni people's ferocious defense of their land. Riyadh and its allies would be very happy if a way is found to end the war in Yemen, provided that its causes are addressed, says a Saudi commentator. These have to do with the Iranian-backed Houthis' attempt to take over the country and oust its legitimate government, threatening the entire region.

 

ONE POSITIVE OUTCOME: "If there is one positive outcome of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's inhuman, bloody and heinous murder, this may lie in the growing likelihood that the Yemen war may end, and that stability and security may return to this country that is overflowing with Arab sentiment, dignity, and a vast reservoir of courage, chivalry, and pride," writes Editor-in-Chief 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.

The Saudi leadership has admitted that its officials carried out the crime. It has detained 18 members of the death squad that carried out the murder. After being provided with conclusive Turkish evidence, and after a growing tide of international anger against it, it has admitted that the crime was premeditated. This has forced it into a tight corner, weakened its position domestically and internationally, and driven it from the offensive to the defensive. It is now trying every means to overcome this crisis, no matter what the financial or political cost.

Suddenly, the 'forgotten' Yemeni war is back in the headlines, with rising voices demanding its immediate cessation, and calls for negotiations between the various parties to reach a permanent political solution:

- First, we heard U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (on Tuesday) calling for a ceasefire within 30 days. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a similar stance demanding that the Saudi-led coalition should cease all its air raids on inhabited areas immediately.

- Second, Martin Griffiths, the UN Envoy to Yemen, has said that he remains committed to bringing all Yemeni parties to the negotiating table within a month – please note the coordination [with the U.S. talk of 30 days] – because dialogue is the only means of reaching a comprehensive solution.

- Third, French Defense Minister Florence Parly has said that it is time for the war in Yemen to end. She repeated her condemnation of the continuing humanitarian crisis there. Meanwhile, British PM Theresa May has confirmed that she is contact with the U.S. to push for a permanent political solution.

- Fourth, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Marc Lecoq has confirmed that 14 million Yemenis are on the brink of starvation, and that deaths due to malnutrition are doubling, especially among children, against the background of the almost total absence of health care or measures to confront epidemics, primarily cholera.

These Western governments – the American, French, and British, in particular – were among the most prominent supporters of this war, backing the Saudi/Emirati coalition with weapons and ammunition. They all gave priority to billions of dollars' worth of arms deals over human rights and human values. They have now been compelled to back away from these shameful positions because that the war continues to rage and is approaching the beginning of its fifth year without achieving any of its aims.

We took a stance against this war from the very first day and the very first air raid. We confidently predicted its failure at a time when many people disagreed with us and expected it to be won decisively within a matter of weeks because of the incomparable difference between the coalition's military might, backed by the most advanced American warplanes, and the almost primitive power of the targeted Yemeni victims along with the deep divisions in the country that had just emerged from a domestic war of attrition that went by the title of an 'Arab Spring' revolution.

We predicted this war's failure because we know the Yemeni people and the country's history that brims with heroism and victory, and the defeats it has inflicted on invading empires no matter how powerful and mighty. In fact, [Saudi] King 'Abdelaziz bin 'Abdulrahman Al Saud was wise [in the 1930s] when he asked his two sons, Prince Saud and Prince Faisal, to return immediately and not remain a single hour on Yemeni soil. He told his advisor, 'Abdullah Philby, who opposed him: 'Silence. You do not know Yemen. It is the graveyard of invaders.' It is unfortunate that those who lit the fuse of this war had not read history or familiarized themselves with Yemen's geography or demography.

The U.S. officials who have suddenly woken up to the war in Yemen and want to end it within a matter of days have not done so out of concern for the Yemeni people's blood and lives. They want to help the Saudi-coalition find a way out of this trap that has destroyed its image around the world, bled its fortunes (the war's cost stands at $9 billion each month), and is beginning to produce negative results, most importantly fragmenting the [Saudi] Kingdom, undermining its security and stability, bleeding it financially, and destroying its and its Emirati ally's economy as a result the increasing number of [Houthi] missiles that are becoming more accurate in striking their [Saudi] targets.

We may have exaggerated a little when we attributed this 'rush' to end the war to Khashoggi's murder and its effects on Saudi Arabia. But we attribute the main cause of this to the Yemeni people in particular, who have fought ferociously in defense of their land, dignity, history, and Arabism. Without this heroic steadfastness, this war would not have lasted for almost four years. This is the simple truth that cannot be denied.

We were fully convinced that the Saudi/Emirati alliance had lost this war when it totally failed to control the city of Hodeida, despite months of fighting and bombardment from air and land, seeking help from all forces around the globe.

We will continue stand in the same trench alongside Yemen, the whole of Yemen, against this aggression until it ends, and until Yemen returns, stable, healthy, and recovered, reconciled and tolerant based on a uniting and all-inclusive national identity. And we believe that these wishes are not difficult to realize when we speak of the people of Yemen with their wisdom and deep roots in history.

"Anyway, tomorrow is around the corner and it will show that we are right," concludes 'Atwan.

End…

 

NO ONE WANTS AN ENDLESS WAR: "No one wants the war in Yemen to continue forever," writes Khaled as-Suleiman in Thursday's Saudi daily Okaz.

The aim behind the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen was to pre-empt the conditions that would have led to a greater war whose flames would have consumed the entire region. For let us imagine the state of affairs in Yemen if the Houthi coup had managed to consolidate its legitimacy, take hold of the country's foreign relations, and succeeded in transforming Yemen into an Iranian base and missile launching-pad that would have threatened the entire Southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have prevented Yemen from falling into the abyss of becoming an ideological state led by slogans and ruled by a religious authority that believes that it derives its legitimacy from God.

So, when the international community demands an end to the war in Yemen, it must specify the bases on which the war will end. It must determine the main features of the future that awaits the Yemeni people so as to ensure that their sacrifices have not been wasted like dust in the wind, as the Houthi coup and its military actions have squandered the lives of their victims in pursuit of power and subjugating their opponents.

The Saudis and their allies are not just passing time in Yemen. They do not aim to remain there or to intervene in Yemen's affairs. They would be happy when the conditions that forced them to intervene in support of the country's legitimate government come to an end, allowing them to devote their resources and energies to fields that are of greater benefit to their people. Consequently, they will back any proposed solution to end the war.

However, that said, the world must bear in mind that the problem never stemmed from the Saudi-led coalition, but always from the other side that adopts the same creed that led Iran to sacrifice the lives of hundreds-of-thousands of Iranians in the [1980/88] Iraq/Iran war.

"Ending the war without dealing with its causes would be no more than a fragile and temporary truce that would not prevent a more painful and longer war from breaking out," concludes Suleiman.

Ends…

 

2-Between threats and action

 

My advice to the PA is to stop posturing and issuing threats that it is unable or unwilling to follow up on. Repeating such practices weakens the PA's credibility and undermines what remains of its image. It does more to highlight its weakness than display its power. I understand that the PA and the presidency's deeper positions are not in alignment with such slogans nor comply with such demands and calls. In light of this, is there any need to continue with such a game? Do such practices help to reinforce the mutual trust between the parties to the Palestinian national project? And is it possible to base the endeavor to revive and resurrect the Palestinian national movement and reinvigorate the PLO on such fragile foundations, typified by mistrust, uncertainty, 'loss of direction,' and mutual accusations of responsibility for the difficult circumstances that the Palestinian national project has ended up in?-- 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Jordanian ad-Dustour

If there is any fault regarding the implementation of [the PCC's] resolutions, it does not apply to their nature. But their implementation, on the other hand, requires facing some very serious challenges. The cost will be enormous, which is why this entails preparing the proper tools to manage this conflict at the least possible cost. It also demands a different sort of national Palestinian situation in order to bear the consequences. These resolutions are supposed to deal with what has happened over 25 years since the Oslo process began. Many facts have accumulated over these years that are not easy to overcome. The matter requires a roadmap and a gradual vision when it comes to implementing the resolutions... Events have taken dangerous course that is not open to adjustment by the U.S./Israeli alliance after developments on the ground have bypassed the possibility of employing these resolutions as threats--Talal 'Awkal in Palestinian al-Ayyam

 

This week's Palestinian Central Council's (PCC's) meeting ended with the same resolutions adopted at previous meetings, but with nothing to suggest that the Palestinian leadership intends to implement them this time around, maintains a leading Jordanian commentator. The Palestinian national movement is paying an enormous price for this dissonance between its discourse and practice. Critics of the PCC have failed to detect the new elements in its latest resolutions, argues a Gaza-based Palestinian commentator. These resolutions are also meant to reverse accumulations of 25 years of the Oslo process, which cannot be done overnight, and requires careful action to minimize the cost to the Palestinian people.

 

'TAKE-3' BUT NO 'ACTION': "The PLO's PCC has adopted the same resolutions for the third time in row," writes 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Thursday's Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.

For the third time, the president and the PLO Executive Committee have been authorized to follow up on these resolutions and implement them. To use the language of cinema, this is like saying 'Take-3'; but the maestro or director has still not shouted out: 'Action!' for the camera lenses to begin turning and the film to be shot. In fact, we may witness a 'Take-4'; but we are most unlikely to hear anyone shouting: 'Action!'

The demands to implement the resolutions adopted by the PNC (Palestinian National Council) and the PCC have never ceased; but no one has paid any attention to them. This has led a number of factions and independent figures to boycott the two councils' sessions, and the PCC in particular. In fact, the Palestinian leadership barely succeeded in securing a quorum for the PCC meeting, even though its membership was tailored to fit the leadership's size, calculations, and preferences.

It is also worth noting that as soon as those meeting in Ramallah went their separate ways, voices emerged from within the 'Follow-up Committee' calling for realism and rationality, and warning against taking leaps in the void or the unknown. And this means that no one will take the trouble to implement these resolutions or translate them into action.

So, why does the PA/PLO's leadership bother to reproduce the same resolutions, when it has no intention of implementing them? I suspect – and not all suspicion is a sin – that it is doing so in order to achieve two aims:

- First to send a message to Israel and the international community that it will respond to U.S./Israeli escalation with similar escalation.

- Second, in order to offer a means for the complainers, rejectionists, oppositionists, and revolutionaries to let off steam inside the meeting halls, and to express what is on their minds and in their hearts, putting it all in ink on paper but with no intention of implementing it.

But I am sure that this game – or tactic, if one wants to raise the moral level of the debate – no longer fools anyone. There was no shock to Israel's political and security establishments, and it is likely that no one in Israel took these decisions seriously. And the same goes for Washington and the international community.

Moreover, the Palestinian 'factions' and 'figures' are now fully aware of the game's rules and aims. Those who still have the last vestiges of self-respect preferred to boycott the meeting in order not be recorded as 'false witnesses.' As for others, who have no place, except at the back as a member of the chorus, all they had to do was to applaud or passively watch what was happening. And there are always sufficient justifications to market one position or another, and they will never lack the means to do so.

The escalatory resolutions adopted by the latest PNC and PCC meetings are akin to the [the Palestinian leadership's] ceaseless threats to 'hand over the PA's keys to Binyamin Netanyahu'. They have lost their effect as a card to be brandished. And those who may believe that the PA has abandoned its belief in the 'sacred' character of security coordination or is about to withdraw from signed agreements, or 'suspend' recognition of Israel, are deluding themselves. In fact, I do not know what 'suspending' recognition means and whether it has any place in international law or not.

My advice to the PA is to stop posturing and issuing threats that it is unable or unwilling to follow up on. Repeating such practices weakens the PA's credibility and undermines what remains of its image. It does more to highlight its weakness than display its power.

I understand that the PA and the presidency's deeper positions are not in alignment with such slogans nor comply with such demands and calls. In light of this, is there any need to continue with such a game? Do such practices help to reinforce the mutual trust between the parties to the Palestinian national project?

"And is it possible to base the endeavor to revive and resurrect the Palestinian national movement and reinvigorate the PLO on such fragile foundations, typified by mistrust, uncertainty, 'loss of direction,' and mutual accusations of responsibility for the difficult circumstances that the Palestinian national project has ended up in?" asks Rintawi in conclusion.

End…

 

AN IMPORTANT STATEMENT: "Against the background of the absence of a number of national and Islamist factions whose size and political and popular role in the struggle exceed the number of boycotters and absentees from the PCC's 30th session – 31 members out of 143 – the PCC held its ordinary meeting and produced an important political statement," writes Talal 'Awkal in Thursday's leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

Despite the quorum– which in itself underlines a problem having to do with extent to which it was properly representative even without taking Hamas and Islamic Jihad into consideration – very fact of holding this meeting highlights the extent of the crisis that is taking the Palestinian national institution by storm and threatening the Palestinians' representative bodies' inclusiveness.

I will not here discuss this crisis or the conflicting legitimacies or the question of representation; nor will I discuss the mechanism for reaching decisions in our national institutions that are supposed to be all-inclusive. Many factions and political observers have already offered many criticisms, objections, and remarks on these issues.

But what may be more important is the PCC's final communiqué that has elicited two sorts of criticisms: The first has to do with the claim that its resolutions are repetitive and contain nothing new; and the second focuses on the issue of implementation. Those making these criticisms believe that the PCC's resolutions are repetitions of the same council's 2015 and 2018 resolutions that were confirmed by the PNC and the PLO Executive Committee, but that have not seen the light of day so far.

But we believe that the PCC's 30th session's final statement included new elements over and above the previous resolutions. Moreover, it was formulated in more serious, firmer, and more decisive terms. And the statement's spirit reflects a determined will to continue the struggle against the challenges facing the Palestinians.

Among the new elements was the PCC's description of relations with the racist occupation as one of struggle, and by extension, one of struggle with the U.S. as well, which the PCC's statement describes as the Israeli occupation's partner and a part of the problem and not of the solution. This point in particular should slam the door on the doubters who have pointed to certain expressions in order to demonstrate that the leadership is wagering on the possibility of returning to negotiations based on the [U.S.-sponsored] deal of the century.

This point goes beyond the previously declared positions of rejecting and confronting the deal of the century and ending all contacts and dealings with the U.S. until it rescinds its decisions regarding Palestinian rights. For by describing the U.S. in these terms, the PCC's latest statement places it at the head of the Palestinian people's list of enemies, alongside the occupation state.

Another new thing in the PCC's statement is its firm opposition to the normalization of Arab/Israeli relations: First, by insisting on the need to implement the 1980 Amman summit's resolutions that call for severing relations with any state that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital or that moves its embassy to the city. Second, by stressing that the PLO clings to the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the 2002 Beirut summit that is facing determined efforts to turn on its head.

Another new element that emerged from the PCC's session is that the PLO has officially adopted the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) movement for the first time, calling for strengthening it, expanding the areas in which it operates, and promoting international compliance with that movement's aims.

It is also important to note that the PCC's statement failed to mention any punitive measures against Hamas or the people of Gaza. In fact, it even reversed previous measures taken by the PNC by urging the need to rescind them.

This point's importance stems from the fact that almost everyone had expected the PCC to adopt new measures in light of the angry and tense terms used in the [President Abbas's] speech that inaugurated the PCC session and that placed Hamas alongside Israel and the U.S. – when it was better to separate and distinguish between them. Moreover, a few days before the PCC session, Fatah's Revolutionary Council had recommended dissolving the PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council), not to mention the many threats and leaks regarding new sanctions [on Hamas/Gaza].

I believe that the absence of such measures from the PCC's resolutions, as well as other points in its statement that address the internal Palestinian situation – including the readiness for new PNC based on previous agreements and for resolving the crisis between the Palestinian factions – mean that the PCC has opened the door to a new effort to achieve inter-Palestinian reconciliation. In fact, the Egyptian delegation's trip to the Gaza Strip the day after the PCC meetings ended confirms this last point, thereby initiating a new shuttle effort between Gaza and Ramallah centering on reconciliation and tahdi'a [lull or calming down] issues.

As for the other fundamental objections to the PCC's resolutions that raise the issue of impotence and procrastination when it comes to implementing previous PNC resolutions, they fail to take into consideration the following:

- If there is any fault regarding the implementation of these resolutions, it does not apply to their nature. But their implementation, on the other hand, requires facing some very serious challenges. The cost will be enormous, which is why this entails preparing the proper tools to manage this conflict at the least possible cost. It also demands a different sort of national Palestinian situation in order to bear the consequences.

- These resolutions are supposed to deal with what has happened over 25 years since the Oslo process began. Many facts have accumulated over these years that are not easy to overcome. The matter requires a roadmap and a gradual vision when it comes to implementing the resolutions.

We should also not ignore the fact that adopting such resolutions before Trump and his deal was meant to threaten an adjustment in the Palestinians' course, which is permissible in political action. However, the situation is different today.

"Events have taken dangerous course that is not open to adjustment by the U.S./Israeli alliance after developments on the ground have bypassed the possibility of employing these resolutions as threats," concludes 'Awkal.

Ends…

 

3-The new American scheme

 

The U.S.-backed SDF's withdrawal in the face of ISIS, suggests that Washington is concocting a new scheme to foil a Syrian settlement using ISIS as its tool, says Mohammad Kharroub in today's Jordanian al-Ra'i

 

The Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF's) rapid withdrawal before advancing ISIS forces East of the Euphrates could not have happened without collusion between the U.S., ISIS, and the SDF, maintains a Jordanian commentator. These developments offer the 'glad tiding' of a new U.S. scheme that is meant to obstruct a peaceful solution in Syria, topple the Syrian president, and cut Russian and Iranian influence there down to size.

 

COLLAPSED HORSE: "Suddenly, the SDF – the horse on which the American invaders have been betting –collapsed," notes Mohammad Kharroub in Thursday's Jordanian daily al-Ra'i.

The SDF threw themselves into the Americans' lap. They became the cat's claw and the tool by which the Americans established their military bases in Northern and Northeastern Syria; based on the lie they invented, namely, to fight terrorism. But they soon revealed their scheme that is intended to obstruct, or in fact undermine, the attempt to resolve the Syrian crisis by political means. They have said it loud and clear instead that they will be 'staying' in Syria, even after ISIS is defeated and repulsed.

The resounding defeat inflicted on the U.S.-backed Kurdish militias would not have occurred had the 'coalition' air force intervened to support those heavily armed militias. However, as the Syrian 'opposition' media reported, these militias simply withdrew before the attacking ISIS groups only hours after the attack began without putting up a strong fight on the pretext that they failed to secure backing from the coalition due to difficult weather conditions. However, those who have investigated what really happened have said that this claim is unjustified, especially since the attacking groups were not numerous and faced large defending forces equipped with the best weapons.

What is happening is a malicious but self-evident game, especially since the SDF's leaders have said that the reason for the setback was partially due to the 'lack of experience' of the Arab fighters in SDF ranks. This raises the level of suspicion and leads to further questions regarding the secret behind ISIS's 'surprise' return to Eastern Syria after the major strikes and defeats that have driven it to the brink of exhaustion and rendered it unable to rally ranks or carry out any counterattacks.

The justifications provided by U.S.-led coalition Spokesman Sean Ryan give us cause to believe that something is being hatched behind the scenes, and that certain parties have wanted to revive ISIS and renew its role. The aim is to exploit it once more in the coming phase, just as it was wagered on it in the phase that preceded its defeat when the Syrian state recaptured many of its lost positions and governorates. The last governorates to be liberated were in South, where ISIS was forced to retreat. As a result, the Americans embraced it and provided it with a safe haven and protection. In fact, they even helped it to deploy in Deir az-Zour areas. More specifically, U.S. helicopters have provided the mode of transportation that Russia's Hmeimim Base has monitored and declared to the world, and that Washington has never officially denied.

By way of justifying the SDF's suspect withdrawal before ISIS's attack, the international coalition's American spokesman said: 'This battle is give and take sometimes like most military fights and we have been saying from the beginning, this will be a difficult struggle.' And he added: 'ISIS is using experienced foreign fighters with nothing to lose and the SDF will come back with coalition support and continue to degrade and destroy ISIS.'

We are dealing here with a torrent of unconvincing justifications that reek of confusion, indeed, of collusion, something that Turkey as well as Iraq are pointing to as reflected in President Erdogan's statements (or 'threats') to invade the area East of the Euphrates and not only Manbij. For he has threatened to destroy 'the terror structure East of the Euphrates,' and clearly declared: 'We have completed our preparations, plans, and programs regarding this issue,' deeming this to be 'a final warning to those who are threatening Turkey's borders and exposing them to dangers,' and stressing 'Ankara's determination to devote its attention to the area East of the Euphrates and not to Manbij, which is in Aleppo's countryside.'

In Iraq as well, the head of the Iraqi National Preventive Security Agency Qassim al-'Araji, has cast doubt on the SDF militias recent withdrawal in the face of ISIS attacks. He said that this withdrawal and the deployment of ISIS in its place raise more than one question, especially since all this has occurred near the Iraqi/Syrian borders.

Erdogan (as well as the Iraqi official) knows that the SDF enjoys the Americans' protection, sponsorship, and backing. In fact, two days ago, on Tuesday, the Turkish president dropped hints, declaring that 'we know there are efforts to give ISIS a free hand via its members who have received training from well-known circles and who have deployed in the area.'

So, is there any doubt that U.S. forces have the upper hand in this area via its military bases and via its tool that goes by the name of 'SDF'? The latter evacuated its strategic positions, especially in the Hajeen Front, leaving them to ISIS fighters who seem to have secured an American green light to launch their recent attacks and announce their 'return', after a series of defeats and setbacks and the fall of their alleged Caliphate state.

We will have to wait until the facts regarding this sudden return of ISIS have been revealed, and until we know the reasons behind the effort to revive it especially after the Trump administration has made up its mind, backed by some regional –Arab – states to keep its invading forces on Syrian soil so as to obstruct a political resolution and impose its vision on the ground by toppling the Syrian president and cutting Russia and Iran's influence down to size. And it is doing so by threatening to create 'mini-states' in Northern and Eastern Syria.

"Meanwhile, what is happening East of the Euphrates and along the common borders with Iraq suggests that a new American scheme is being prepared whose initial 'glad tidings' are already evident from the green light given to ISIS to return and to the SDF to withdraw in favor of the U.S.'s new/old [ISIS] 'ally'," concludes Kharroub.

Ends...

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 31.10.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Waiting for the big one

 

The results of Israel's municipal elections Tuesday are coming in with Tel Aviv's long-standing mayor Ron Huldai reelected for another term after 20 years at the helm. In Haifa, Labor newcomer Einat Kalisch-Rotem seems to have beaten incumbent mayor Yona Yahav, who headed the city for the past 15 years. Kalisch-Rotem is now the first woman ever to lead a major city in Israel. In Jerusalem, none of the candidates reached the 40 percent threshold necessary to win the first round. Secular candidate Ofer Berkovitch, the founder and chairman of the Hitorerut (Awakening) movement that is comprised of both secular and Orthodox Jews, will be running in a second round against Moshe Leon, who has the unofficial support of ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Arye Deri. The second round is slated for November 13.

Overall, 53 percent of those eligible to vote participated in local elections across the country. This represents a slight increase compared to the last elections in 2013. This year, election day was declared a holiday in order to increase voter participation, which is also the standard in Israeli national elections. Tuesday's local elections are not Israel's version of the midterms. They are not even similar to local and regional elections in most Western democracies, where the national parties can use the results as a barometer of their popularity. In most cities and local governments in Israel, the majority of slates competing for seats are formed on an ad-hoc basis, and at most are only loosely aligned with national parties. Most mayoral candidates are independent, and while they vie for the endorsement of national leaders, whether they win or lose does not necessarily reflect on those who backed them. For all these reasons, there are usually few takeaways about national politics to be gleaned from local elections.

That said, they do sometimes indicate important and wider political trends. 2018 could turn out to be the rare local election that signals a generational shift in Israeli politics. Two major trends are occurring. First, the leaderships of the main ultra-Orthodox parties that succeeded in coordinating electoral strategy on the local and national levels since the early 1990s have dissolved. The breakdown of ultra-Orthodox politics will almost certainly influence next year's national election and could quite likely deny Netanyahu the crucial alliance he needs for forming a strong coalition – one that will stick by him if he is indicted for corruption. Meanwhile, the prime minister has more immediate troubles: The wheels are falling off his formidable election machine partly due to the fact that for years he has failed to invest in Likud's local operations, but also to a weakening of his authority. It is nowhere near a total collapse, but it is the start of Likud beginning to prepare itself for the succession battle on the day Netanyahu is forced to leave.

The municipal-election campaign in Arab towns and cities swung into full gear only in the past two months. A change felt in Arab communities in these elections was the challenge young people presented to the extended families' traditional power. In many communities, young people, including women, ran on independent tickets, and some won enough votes to ensure a spot in local councils. But they did not manage to outweigh the tribal or extended-family system; many national Arab parties did not even run alternatives to the extended-family candidates.

Controversial first-time polls in Druze communities in the Golan Heights drew protests and attacks on polling stations. A significant new element to the vote saw Druze cast ballots in the Golan Heights for the first time since Israel seized the strategic region from Syria in 1967. The vote was controversial since many Druze who feel connected to Syria fear it will help Israel legitimize its control over the region. Several hundred protesters in the village of Majdal Shams, some carrying Syrian flags, temporarily blocked a polling center as police sought to maintain calm. There had been calls to boycott the election during campaigning and a string of candidates pulled out. Israel has previously appointed local leaders in the villages. In Yarka, a separate Druze village in Northern Israel not in the Golan, police said two polling stations were closed after a stun grenade was thrown at one of them, lightly wounding 10 people. There is similar controversy in East Jerusalem, which Israel also captured in 1967 and later annexed, though there were no reports of incidents there. Unlike in national elections, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who have not taken Israeli citizenship are eligible to vote in local polls. But the vast majority stay away, refusing to recognize Israel's control over the sector of the city they see as the capital of their future state. Some 300,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem.

In political news, with the first round of municipal elections over, Prime Minister Netanyahu will soon decide when he wants the next general election to be held, sources close to him said on Tuesday. Netanyahu said in closed conversations that he cannot deal with the race for the Knesset until the completion of local races, in which he has backed more than 60 mayoral candidates across the country. The prime minister would want to distance the general election from the municipal races because his endorsements earned him many enemies. Now that most municipal races have been decided, the Knesset, which had been distracted, can return to passing the controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment bill, which the Supreme Court has said must be passed by December 2. Others have speculated that Netanyahu will want to advance the election in order to hold it before Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit decides on indicting him. Channel 2 reported last week that the indictment would be ready in early 2019.

Elsewhere, an East Jerusalemite has been held for two weeks by the Palestinian Authority under suspicion that he sold an apartment to Jews in Jerusalem's Old City. Issam Aqel, who is also an American citizen, was arrested in Ramallah earlier in October by Palestinian security for suspected involvement in the sale of a house in the Old City's Muslim Quarter, near Herod's Gate. Israel Police arrested several other Palestinian suspects for involvement in Aqel's arrest, including the PA's Jerusalem governor, Adnan Ghaith, as well as Jihad al-Faqeeh, chief of intelligence for the PA in the Jerusalem area. Both were released from detention last week. In a discussion held in the Knesset's Interior Committee, right-wing MKs harshly criticized the police and the Defense Ministry for not releasing Aqel from arrest. "Why don't you pick up the phone and call the responsible person in the PA and tell him that either the guy gets back within an hour or two or buildings start to fall? What if this was a Jew from Tel Aviv?" MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) said. According to Smotrich, Aqel arrived at the police station before he left for Ramallah and said he feared for his life. Smotrich added that since Aqel is an American citizen, American consular officials have visited him.

Finally, in financial news, Boeing has agreed to spend billions of dollars in Israel over the coming decade if it wins major defense contracts, Israel's Economy Ministry said on Tuesday. The "reciprocal procurement" agreement calls for Boeing to collaborate with Israeli industries for at least 35 percent of the value of any transaction it signs with the Israeli government. This could ease concerns in Israel over new requirements in a U.S. aid package that divert funds away from local industries. Boeing is competing in Israel for a number of key Defense Ministry contracts, including the purchase of additional F-15 aircraft, fueling planes and a squadron of transport helicopters, the ministry said. With Israel expecting to make about $10 billion of military purchases from Boeing over the next decade, the agreement with the U.S. aerospace company means $3.5 billion in new business in Israel, the ministry said in a statement.

 

 

LIEBERMAN SMELLS NETSNYAHU'S WEAKNESS: Amir Oren in Walla! argues the defense minister's appointment of Aviv Kochavi to chief of staff, without the PM's validation, was not a rash whim. Lieberman understood that Netanyahu's legal situation is about to end his tenure as PM, and made a level-headed decision to tease his rival and former partner.

"The central fact in the story of the appointment of the next chief of staff, the right choice of Major General Aviv Kochavi, has become a footnote in an even more enticing and intriguing plot: Avigdor Lieberman's war with Binyamin Netanyahu.

Kochavi is an excellent officer with an impressive background. Not only does he have no skeletons in his closet, he does not even have a closet. The greatest obstacle he faced was the defense minister's announcement. Netanyahu's half-hearted endorsement ('the worthy candidate'), following hours of silence, proves Lieberman calculated the balance of power correctly.

Lieberman has for years held Netanyahu's limpness in contempt and aspires to succeed him. Two and a half years ago he identified his weakness and achieved for himself, as head of a small faction that is necessary to ensure a stable majority, the most important portfolio in the government, his heart's desire. There he came across a strange phenomenon in the prime minister's relationship with the minister of defense: In decisions pertaining to war and peace, the buck stops with the PM, even in total opposition to the defense minister's opinion, but in the most important appointment the government can make; that of a chief of staff, the defense minister is more influential than the prime minister.

Lieberman's decision to propose to the government to appoint Kohavi, which was based on a lengthy, orderly and highly consultative process, effectively thwarted any possibility that Netanyahu - who did not partake in the process - would be able to justify his preference for another general. This is the result of Lieberman's disregard of Netanyahu's will, but in order to understand this, one must go back to the reason, or perhaps two reasons.

The first, over which Netanyahu exercised control, was his reluctance to keep the defense portfolio to himself. Netanyahu is afraid to serve as defense minister. If he so desired, he could have held the portfolio when he was elected prime minister in 1996. No one would have stood in his way and prevented him from controlling the IDF directly, after four years of Rabin and Peres (who refused to give up the portfolio for Barak, in the period between Rabin's assassination and the elections); but he was afraid of the responsibility. 'Put it down to lack of experience', he replied years later - but before he returned to the premiership – to the question why he did not keep the defense portfolio for himself. The answer was perhaps sincere, but incomplete. Even when he was very experienced, standing at the head of three governments for almost 10 consecutive years, and able of taking any portfolio for himself, he attached the media and foreign affairs portfolios to himself – but not defense. The man who was foreign secretary and minister of finance in Sharon's government but never asked for the defense portfolio, apparently does not feel secure enough to be responsible for security. A matter of personality structure, or of fear of the post-war commission of inquiry. Bibi has no security.

And despite all that, Lieberman would not have provoked Bibi so openly had he not smelled blood. Lieberman simply understands that Netanyahu's legal status is about to put an end to his term as prime minister, come the Knesset elections. In announcing Kochavi's appointment, under his own authority and without Netanyahu's validation, Lieberman hunted two fowls with one stone – made a sound decision, not borne out of reckless whimsy, his own or that of others, and exposed Netanyahu's growing weakness. Fowls rather than birds, because Netanyahu emerges from Lieberman's Kochavi story a lame duck with plucked feathers."

Ends…

 

THE CHAOS ENGULFING NETANYAHU: Ben Caspit in Maariv believes Netanyahu has long since become an independent non-party entity with an independent existence outside Likud. He has become convinced his brand is bigger, stronger, and more important than his party's brand. He may be right.

"The recording broadcast on Hadashot TV news, in which an activist from the Likud branch in Bat Yam and MK Miki Zohar are heard analyzing Prime Minister Netanyahu's behavior, reveals the tip of an iceberg. Sometimes one recording is better than a thousand words. This authentic conversation, during which MK Zohar says of the prime minister, 'I am telling you the truth, he behaved like a maniac, I have never seen anything like it', illustrates the chaos in Netanyahu's conduct. The reality, described here many times, in which Netanyahu's chamber's has been emptied (because so many of his former confidantes have turned state's witnesses), and there is no suitable professional work environment in the PM's vicinity, is worsening at a rapid pace. A hodgepodge crew of wheeler-dealers is quarreling in this Byzantine courtyard for the attention of one Chani Bleiweis, who is close to the monarch itself, meaning Lady Sarah of Balfour. She is the one who issued tapes of support from the prime minister to all and sundry. Netanyahu's tape of support for Yossi Bachar, in the face of Bat-Yam's official Likud candidate Zvika Brot, and in total contradiction to the public backing of all the party's leaders and senior members, is just one example of the chaos.

Let us move on to Or Yehuda, where Netanyahu filmed a video supporting the mayor of the city, Liat Shochat. The problem is that Shochat is not running on a Likud ticket. Quite the opposite; in the past she even ran for a seat on Labor's Knesset list. Shochat is competing against Likud. But Netanyahu supports her. Apparently due to the fact that one of the Likud leaders in Or Yehuda serves as Shochat's assistant, or something like that, and is running against his own party.

Netanyahu has long since become an independent, supra-partisan entity, with an independent existence outside of Likud. He has become convinced that his brand today is bigger, more important, stronger and more influential than his party's brand. He may be right. His party can only blame itself. Those who act like doormats – end up being trodden on like doormats.

Who is this Chani Bleiweis? Maariv readers are familiar with her from a scene she caused media minister Ayoub Kara in his office in the Ministry. She walked in like a storm, slammed the door, threw out anyone present, and stayed with the minister alone. Her shouts were heard in high heaven. After she left, the orders she brought with her from Jerusalem were immediately executed. During these local elections, she was in charge of Netanyahu's endorsement tapes. Netanyahu is a winning brand in many local authorities in Israel. Candidates were willing to kill for his endorsement. It turns out that you do not have to be a Likudnik in order to get one.

This Likud chaos is taking place in many other places. The same Miki Zohar, for example, star of the recording broadcast on Hadashot, was at the center of a similar scene in his hometown of Kiryat Gat. Zohar's group in the local Likud branch in Kiryat Gat lost by one vote to a rival group, which led the list in the local elections. Despite the loss, Zohar did not give up. He managed to extract a considerable sum (probably hundreds of thousands of shekels) from Likud's municipal headquarters, in support of an independent list he ran there. Yes, that list ran against Likud's list, but Likud (i.e., the taxpayer) financed both lists, one against the other. At our expense."

Ends…

 

WE HAVE THE TOOLS TO DETER TERROR: Einat Korman in Makor Rishon claims Israel is capable of combating terror and creating effective deterrence by demanding the death penalty for terrorists and imposing sanctions on their families. Israel can become an international example, if only MKs had the will.

"How do we create deterrence? There are two main ways to do this: First, by taking more severe punitive action against the terrorists themselves and adopting a more sever approach to dealing with them, and by implementing deterring measures against those who assist and are close to the terrorist, usually family members. There is a distinction to be made between punishment and deterrence; it is a distinction that exists in both law and legislation. But government policy does not distinguish between these two measures, and just as the government does not want to over-punish, so too it does not want to deter.

The State of Israel can easily, under existing law, demand the death penalty for terrorists; but it does not do so. The state can worsen the conditions of detention of terrorists, deprive them of extensive rights, deny family visits, freeze canteen money; but it does not do so. The state may permanently revoke the residency or citizenship of a terrorist; but it does not do so. All these and more are legitimate means of punishment, but the Israeli government does not have an unequivocal resolution to take these measures. Each case is examined on its merits, each terrorist receives his own conditions and there is no policy and no uniform approach and, therefore, no deterrence.

If there is no organized policy regarding terrorists, the situation is even worse when it comes to attempts to create deterrence by imposing sanctions against families of terrorists. The state can demolish homes of terrorists and their families; but it does not do so, because the High Court forbids it. The state can revoke work permits from families of terrorists, relocate them for a limited period of time, revoke their residency or citizenship; but it does not do so in a consistent and comprehensive manner. This does not help in creating deterrence.

The State of Israel has options for creating deterrence that already exist in the law; it simply does not use them properly. The High Court of Justice is no longer an excuse. If the State of Israel wants to use an iron fist against the terrorists and use deterrence measures against their families, it must fight for it in the courts. When it was announced that the home of the terrorist who murdered Adiel Kolman would be destroyed his family protested and claimed he was mentally ill, the state attorney accepted the claim immediately and the demolition was canceled. Only after the public protest was heard and after the Kolman family proved that the terrorist had published hate speech and was aware of his actions - the attorney general advisor ordered that the possibility of demolishing the house be reconsidered. When the three youths were kidnapped and murdered, and later during the massacre of the Solomon family, we demanded in the legal forum to place the murderers on trial and to demand the death penalty. The Military Advocate General replied that this is not the policy of the State Attorney's Office, and that he refuses to do so. But is it the military prosecutor's job to determine policy? Is this not the purview of the government?

It is to be hoped that the State of Israel's confrontation with terror will serve as an example to all the other countries in which terrorists seek to murder us."

Ends…

 

THE IRON FIST AGAINST HAMAS IS NOT WORKING: Yaela Ronen, a resident of the Gaza envelope, argues in Sicha Mekomit that Michael Gladwell's book "David and Goliath" proves using violence against a populace creates a refusal to give in, as exemplified in London in WW2 and in Northern Ireland. It is high time Israel understood Gaza will not be subdued in this way.

"I live in Kissufim. Israel's policy towards Gaza affects me and my family fast and hard. It is clear to me that Israeli governments do not formulate policies that benefit me. Look at the results: Once every week or two, missiles are launched towards us. We all live with severe anxieties. I am afraid of any loud noise, and do not know if schools will open tomorrow or if I will be forced to flee to my friends' home in Tel Aviv.

Just read the book "David and Goliath" by Malcolm Gladwell. It clearly shows that the political path of the government will only make our lives worse. It certainly will not bring any solution to the Gaza Strip. Gladwell stipulates that the use of force against an ostensibly weaker populace creates both resistance and greater survival power. The result is neither what was desired nor expected.

The first example relates to the German bombing of London during World War II. The Germans expected that the heavy bombings would drive millions out of the city and that as a result London's ability to survive – followed by Britain as a whole – would be severely damaged. But the bombings had the opposite effect. Tens of thousands were killed, tens of thousands were injured, but the millions who survived became more determined and durable and able to withstand the bombings. Gladwell gives a psychological explanation for this phenomenon: If you have not died and have not been injured, you are not 'supposed' to be hit by the bombs. The next bombardments frighten you less. They certainly will not convince you to surrender.

The second example is Northern Ireland. In the late 1960s, British General Ian Freeland decided to eliminate the violence and used force against Belfast's Catholic neighborhoods: Curfews, house searches, arrests, and the use of live ammunition. However, these actions did not 'curb' the Catholics. They only infuriated them, and the level of violence in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants only increased. Dozens of years passed and thousands of people were killed until they reached an agreement there.

In 2008, Israel decided to impose a siege on the Gaza Strip. Israel claimed that the siege was intended to isolate Hamas and prevent rocket fire towards Israeli communities in the Negev. Since then, the level of exports from the Gaza Strip has dropped to two percent of what it was in 2007, and the volume of incoming goods has dropped to a quarter. In the last year Gaza residents have been forced to contend with a few hours of electricity a day. In recent months, as a result of over-pumping and lack of water from other sources, the amount of drinking water in the Gaza Strip has declined alarmingly. And yet, they have not surrendered. 1,166 Palestinians were killed during Operation Cast Lead. 174 were killed during Cloud Pillar. 2,125 were killed in Protective Edge. Three heavy-duty military operations, immense destruction. And yet the residents of the Gaza Strip refuse to cooperate with Israel in taking action to topple the Hamas regime.

For many of us it is clear that the path Israel has chosen is not working. Gladwell's book clarifies why this is happening: It shows that excessive use of force against a populace creates emotional resilience towards violence, and an ever- increasing desire not to surrender. Therefore, the cries emanating from some of the residents in the region, and of course also from the ministers in the government, to 'strike' Hamas in Gaza, will only lead to greater resistance from Hamas and the residents of Gaza against Israel's might. If so, why does Israel insist on continuing on this fruitless path?"

Ends…

 

THE PENDULUM SWINGS BACK TOWARD CONFLICT: Amos Harel in Haaretz warns another round of violence with Islamic Jihad may lead to a more serious Israeli response that could complicate peace efforts.

"The Palestinian situation as described by Israeli defense officials is nearly identical to that as depicted by a senior politician in a conversation with reporters Monday. Last week Israel and Hamas were not far from achieving a long-term cease-fire – until the escalation over the weekend. But now, amid the violence led by Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, and the obstacles placed by the Palestinian Authority, a more pessimistic tone has replaced qualified optimism.

The coming days are expected to be sensitive – and another round of violence with Islamic Jihad may lead to a more serious military response by Israel that could complicate efforts to achieve calm. The senior command of the Israel Defense Forces, just like Prime Minister Netanyahu, seeks any alternative to launching a large-scale operation in Gaza.

Last weekend, after the many ups and downs in the indirect talks brokered by Egyptian and UN officials, it seemed the sides were approaching a deal. Hamas leaders in Gaza were encouraged by the Israeli decision to let in Qatari-funded fuel shipments, which substantially increased the electricity supply for Gazans. At the same time, there were signs of a Qatari willingness to fund a significant chunk of Hamas employees' salaries, which Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas has been threatening to curtail.

The contacts went awry after Friday's incidents. First, five protesters were killed by the IDF at the Gaza border fence in confrontations that the army described as more violent than usual. Through Friday night Islamic Jihad fired dozens of rockets and mortar bombs at Israeli communities near Gaza. On Saturday morning a cease-fire was once again declared, under Egyptian pressure, but Sunday evening an Israeli airstrike killed three Palestinian teens as they approached the border fence, apparently with the aim of planting an explosive. Islamic Jihad threatened to respond but did not, after pressure by Egypt and Hamas.

Hamas now finds itself facing a dual challenge. On the one hand, Islamic Jihad is again raising the flag of resistance and is lambasting Hamas for its lack of response to IDF killings during the violent protests at the fence. On the other hand, 'Abbas is threatening further sanctions against Gaza (and at the same time is saying he will halt security coordination with Israel – a step the PA has threatened many times without actually doing so). What looked like the start of a positive dynamic, if only for a few moments last week, has been replaced by a dynamic of escalation. In the background, tensions that are palpable on the streets have risen between the various Palestinian factions. In Gaza, protests were held near the homes of several Hamas leaders. In Ramallah there was a widely attended protest against alleged PA corruption.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot visited the Gaza Division headquarters Tuesday to view the preparation of forces for the coming days. There will be a decent-sized deployment near Gaza toward the weekend amid concerns of a renewed escalation along the border and the possibility that Islamic Jihad will again fire rockets. The international mediation efforts will continue, but the pendulum swinging between an escalation and a deal seems to be moving once again toward renewed conflict."

Ends…

 

HOW ISRAEL BECAME INDIA'S STRATEGIC PARTNER: Mayuri Mukherjee in The Jerusalem Post explains that Israel's bottom-up diplomacy has paid off. By focusing on agriculture and water management, instead of lobbying to change India's foreign policy, Israel had shifted the core of its India policy from a politically-charged single issue (the Palestinian cause) to a much wider non-political grassroots platform.

"The recent award of a $777-million contract to Israel Aerospace Industries for the supply of air and missile defense systems to the Indian Navy has re-emphasized how India/Israel relations have evolved in the last two and a half decades. From outright hostility at the time of independence seven decades ago to a strategic partnership today, the bilateral has come a long way.

That this has been possible in part because of robust defense cooperation between New Delhi and Jerusalem is well-known but what is less acknowledged is the importance of cooperation with Indian States, in fields such as agriculture and water-management. So while the IAI deal made international headlines, the Israel tour of the chief minister of one of India's most prosperous States, Punjab, went under the radar. During his five-day visit from October 21-25, Capt. Amarinder Singh toured the NaanDanJain agricultural facility, the Dan Region wastewater treatment plant, the Afikim dairy farm, and met with President Reuven Rivlin. Earlier in the year, his counterparts from the States of Gujarat and Haryana also visited Israel, and agriculture featured prominently on both their agendas.

This decentralized strategy of partnering with different political and private players including State governments, through cooperation in agriculture and allied fields, has long been an integral part of Israeli diplomacy in India – especially in the early years when Jerusalem had few friends in New Delhi. For example, in 1949, Israel favorably considered India's request for assistance in agriculture even as India refused to recognize the Jewish State and opposed its UN membership. Israel's Histadrut maintained ties with India's labor leaders, many of whom visited the Jewish State. In 1960, two large Indian delegations – one comprising land reforms activists from the Bhoodan movement, and another comprising young farmers – visited Israel. In 1970, India's leading agriculturist Appasaheb Pawar lived in Israel for months, studying new agro-tech. His brother, Sharad Pawar – who would later serve three terms as Maharashtra chief minister and two as Union Minister – also played an important role in building agricultural ties between the two countries.

This decentralized approach to diplomacy continued even after India and Israel established diplomatic ties in 1992. A significant development in itself, it, however did not translate into policy shifts on the ground. Delhi issued a curt official statement and kept the new bilateral on a low profile. Left-wing parties opposed diplomatic ties and argued that India should have waited till Palestinian statehood had been achieved. However, the normalization of India-Israel ties coincided with the liberalization of the Indian economy – and States were now empowered to work with foreign governments to bring in economic investment. Israeli diplomats seized the opportunity. Often ignored in the power corridors of Delhi, they sought to build durable partnerships in state capitals.

A slew of chief ministerial visits to Israel, from across party lines, followed--starting with Gujarat's Chimanbhai Patel (Congress) in 1992, then Maharashtra's Sharad Pawar (Nationalist Congress Party), who led an 800-member strong delegation to the agritech conference in 1993, then Rajasthan's Bhairon Singh Shekhawat (Bharatiya Janata Party) in 1994, and Karnataka's Deve Gowda (Janata Dal-Secular) in 1995. In 1996, Deve Gowda became Prime Minister and, within six months, hosted President Ezer Weizman in Delhi – even though his own party had opposed normalization. Gowda and Weizman signed four agreements, including one to set up a model farm at India's premier agriculture research institute near Delhi. By this time, Israeli firms had also begun to build a profile in India – Tahal was working on water management in Gujarat and Rajasthan while Netafim had a joint venture with an Indian firm that it had been doing business with even before 1992. Both Israeli companies now have a pan-India presence.

The bilateral grew stronger with the pro-Israel BJP coming to the helm in Delhi in 1998. In 2000, West Bengal's Jyoti Basu, a Communist party veteran, broke taboo and visited Israel with a large business delegation. This was a big win, but it was derailed by the Second Intifada. Still, Prime Minister AB Vajpayee hosted Ariel Sharon in 2003, indicating a qualitative improvement in bilateral ties.

This was again taken down a notch when the Congress party returned to power in 2004 and rolled back public engagement. However, bilateral trade in general and cooperation in agriculture in particular continued to grow. In 2007, Israel's NaanDan joined with India's Jain Irrigation Systems to form NaanDanJain which now provides irrigation solutions across 100 countries. In 2008, the flagship Indo-Israel Agriculture Project was established. Jointly implemented by the India's horticulture mission and Israel's MASHAV, it now has more than 15 agricultural centers across nine Indians states.

When the BJP returned to power in 2014, the pro-Israel Prime Minister Narendra Modi was able to build on decades of quiet but effective diplomacy that had already delivered tangible benefits. Modi himself was chief minister of Gujarat for 14 years, during which time his state developed a close partnership with Israel. When he became Prime Minister, few other diplomats had the kind of access to him as the Israeli Ambassador in New Delhi.

Israel's bottom-up diplomacy has paid off. By focusing on agriculture and water management, instead of, say, lobbying to change India's foreign policy perspectives, Israel had shifted the core of its India's policy from a politically-charged single issue (the Palestinian cause) to a much wider non-political grassroots platform. This is not to suggest that cooperation in other areas, particularly defense, was not important – it was and is. But defense cooperation is also inherently susceptible to secrecy and negative opinion, which can be challenging for public diplomacy. In contrast, agricultural cooperation at the state level, allowed Israel to accrue the goodwill of the people, make friends across the ideological spectrum, and shield the bilateral from political upheavals."

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 31.10.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

LOCAL ELECTIONS: Oral Calislar evaluates the upcoming Ankara local elections' race in centrist tabloid Posta: "We are witnessing one of the most critical rounds in the chess game of politics. President Erdogan does not want to lose Ankara. According to the available data, the race for the Ankara municipality will be very close. In the March 2014 elections, AKP [Justice and Development Party] candidate Melih Gokcek, garnered 1.417 million votes, while CHP [main opposition Republican People's Party] candidate Mansur Yavas won 1.385 million, i.e. with only 35,000 difference between them. It is easy to say that if Gokcek shifts and becomes the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] candidate, the chances of an AKP loss will increase."

Ahmet Kaya strikes a hopeful note in pro-Kurdish opposition Yeni Yasam: "The meetings that have begun between the Kurdish parties before the local elections have taken a positive course. I have been witness to these meetings on behalf of the Human and Freedom Party. Those who give importance to solidarity, dialogue, and cooperation between the Kurdish parties should know that what we have seen so far is much more positive and advanced than ever before. Unless there is some serious unexpected trouble, and if everyone behaves responsibly and acts with a high degree of consciousness, we are very likely to secure the desired result."

Mehmet Barlas notes the president's appreciation of loyalty in pro-government Sabah: "President Erdogan's assessment of former Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek at yesterday's AKP meeting revealed something very important about his approach, which everyone knows but is forgotten from time to time. Loyalty is one of the most important values for Erdogan, who said of Melih Gokcek that 'he has been my companion since 1994.' Getting to know Erdogan makes it easier to understand contemporary Turkish politics."

 

NATIONALISM: Sonar Polat wonders what is holding the nationalists back in left-wing opposition Aydinlik: "Those who want to align Kemalism with the West should first look in the mirror! Where do you stand today in relation to NATO and the EU? What do you think about the EU project that will hand over sovereignty to Brussels? At a time when nationalism is at rise and nationalist parties are gaining ground everywhere in the world, what possible reason is there for them to head downwards in Turkey? At a time when Turkey faces major challenges and threats, when PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] terror is out of control, why does the nationalist structure seem unable to make a big leap forward?"

Enver Aysever searches for a new Kemalism in nationalist opposition Cumhuriyet: "Let it be known that Erdogan will allow nothing but his own ideology. It is extremely important to note that the government is now handling the October 29th Republic Day celebrations because we have to think about what are celebrating, what kind of a motherland we aspire to, and what kind of a future we dream about. Another major danger arises from a Kemalism that is severed from its revolutionary roots, linked to global imperialism, and degraded to a way of life that ultimately plays into the AKP's hands. Today, we need to revive the revolutionary Republic."

 

SYRIA/KURDS: Fadime Ozcan detects a message to Washington in pro-government Star: "The state-funded Anadolu Agency has reported that the Turkish Armed forces have struck at PKK/YPG [Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units] bases in Mor Zaghar region along the 'Ain al-Arab/Kobane border in Syria. Furthermore, speaking to the AKP's parliamentary group meeting yesterday, the president repeated that there could be another operation East of Euphrates any moment. This message was surely not addressed to the PKK/PYD [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party] but to its owner: In other words, to the U.S., which has fallen so low as to support a terror organization."

 

Iran media watch

 

'ECONOMIC TERRORISM': Iran "slammed U.S. sanctions and economic terrorism against Tehran as part of Washington's psychological war against the Iranian nation", English-language Press TV reported. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, "Tehran's battle against terrorism to restore peace and stability in the region foiled a U.S. scheme". Qassemi rejected U.S. claims about the country's economic situation. His remarks came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Tweet that Iran's economy declined 3.6 percent due to Tehran's support of the Syrian regime.

 

'ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT': Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi has dismissed accusations that Iran was allegedly involved in an assassination attempt on an opposition activist in Denmark, rolling news channel IRINN and Channel One (IRTV1) report. According to IRINN, following the "claim", Denmark recalled its ambassador to Tehran for consultations. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked the Danish government for its "anti-Iran action", the channel said.

 

ARBA'EEN: Reports on the return of Iranian pilgrims from Iraq dominated news coverage in Iranian newspapers and domestic broadcast media. According to reports, about two million Iranian pilgrims took part in Arba'een rallies held in the city of Karbala on 30 October. Hardline Keyhan estimated that 20 million pilgrims from around the world were in Karbala for the event. "Another epic on Arba'een," reformist Aftab-e Yazd's front-page headline read. "Ideal of the United Nations," har-line Vatan-e Emruz's caption over a large photo of the massive Arba'een ceremony said.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Persian-language social media users continue to ask for the release of arrested truck drivers using. Over 4,000 Tweets were used to show support for the drives. "Iranian truck drivers are still in prison because of the strike, they need our help," wrote one. "Solidarity with truckers is the duty of every Iranian," wrote another. One user by "expressing his support for the truckers in the strike", asked "international and human rights communities for action to release the arrested". Lorry drivers went on strike on 22 September in protest over the government's failure to meet their demands. According to an unofficial tally at least 170 people have been arrested since the beginning of the strikes; some of those detained have been threatened with execution on "banditry" charges.

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 31.10.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-A heroic posture

2-Khashoggi one month on

3-Rebuffing Putin

 

1-  A heroic posture

 

The Palestinian leadership's stance against 'the [U.S.-sponsored] deal of the century' is a point in its favor in national and patriotic terms. It is a firm position in confronting the Trump administration that has imposed its control over the world – Russia, China, NATO, the EU – while Palestine alone is boldly and unwaveringly saying 'No'. This heroic posture, however, will remain just that in light of what we know about the internal Palestinian situation… In order to be implemented, any decisions, no matter how necessary and important, require a balance of power that is different from what we have today. And the first step towards changing this balance must focus on restoring our national unity as our primary concern, if we are to implement the PCC's [Palestine Central Council's] resolutions. The inter-Palestinian issue must take national precedence over all other issues, no matter how important they may be. Without that, there can be no hope of changing the current balance of power-- Hani Habib in Palestinian al-Ayyam

As soon as President Trump took office two years ago, the U.S. administration changed from a sponsor of peace to the Palestinians' enemy. It took steps in which it confirmed that it fully sides with Israel. This is especially true of its controversial decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and its subsequent decisions that are unfair to the Palestinians... The pressing question now is this: What will happen after the decision to revoke the Palestinian recognition of Israel? Will this bring an end to Israel's policies in dealing with the PA? The situation seems difficult for the Palestinians and their leadership. But what is certain is that this decision will reshuffle the cards and cast its shadow over the moves that have already begun to reach what has come to be referred to as 'the deal of the century.' But this 'deal' has now been exposed to the winds--Emirates' al-Khaleej

 

The Palestinian Central Council (PCC) latest resolutions are to a large extent repetitions of previous resolutions that have not been implemented, notes a Palestinian commentator. If they are to be implemented now, the balance of power with Israel must be changed; and the first step towards this is to overcome the existing inter-Palestinian rifts and divisions. The PCC's most important decisions were to revoke Palestinian recognition of Israel and end security coordination with it, notes the editorial in an Emirati daily. Although the Palestinian leadership may find it difficult to follow up on these decisions, Israel and the U.S. have driven it into a corner where it has no other option. Meanwhile, the Trump administration's proposed 'deal of the century' is going nowhere.

 

REVOKING RECOGNITION: "At its latest 30th session, the PCC declared that it was revoking the PLO's recognition of Israel until Israel recognizes the State of Palestine, and it upheld the right to resist the occupation by all means possible that are consistent with international law," notes Hani Habib in Wednesday's leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

The PCC also decided to cease all forms of security coordination with Israel and end the Palestinian commitments to the signed agreements with Israel. It mandated for President 'Abbas to implement these decisions.

As soon as the PCC meetings ended, the president headed a meeting of the SNC (Supreme National Council) that he had formed made up of the PLO's Executive Committee members, Fatah Central Council members, and other security, government, and national figures, in order to speed up the creation of the appropriate mechanisms for implementing the PCC's resolutions.

The fact that the SNC met so quickly gives an impression of the seriousness with which the PCC's resolutions will be addressed. But the fact that no timetable was set for the Council's activities raises reasonable doubt as to whether the required seriousness will actually be manifest, especially since the PCC's latest resolutions are repetitions of its resolutions adopted at previous meetings.

Was there any need to establish the SNC at all? Doing so seems logical in light of the PNC's (PLO Palestinian National Council) recent decision to delegate its powers to the PCC. A number of observers have viewed this decision as a violation of the PLO's Basic Rules and as marginalizing the PLO Executive Committee, turning it into a consultative structure in the best of cases, even though it is meant to be the agency responsible for implementing both the PNC and PCC's resolutions.

The fact is that the establishment of the SNC as a replacement of the PLO Executive Committee recalls previous decisions to delegate the latter's powers that have not been successful in implementing the resolutions taken by the PLO's leading institutions. In March 2015, for example, the PCC delegated the implementation of its resolutions to a political committee stemming from the PLO Executive Committee, only for the matter to return to the PCC without any of the resolutions having been implemented. Proof of this comes from the fact that most of the PCC's 30th session's resolutions were referred back to it from previous sessions of the PCC itself.

In a comment he made immediately after the end of the PCC's 30th session, the PLO's Executive Committee's Secretary Sa'eb 'Ereikat, said that these resolutions would be implemented gradually so to avoid a leap into the void, because the issues in question were not mere slogans. This comment is both proper and necessary to some extent, because the issue goes beyond our ability to implement these resolutions on the ground. Moreover, the use of the term 'gradually' is an attempt to escape the fact that the issue is less about whether the positions and resolutions are the right ones, and more about the ability to implement them in practice.

Postponing these and other resolutions for years and months and the repeated meetings, all confirm that we very far from actually implementing them, even if the will to do so may be there. This is the result of a number of factors, not the least of which is the internal Palestinian [Hamas/Fatah] rift and our inability to emerge from it, despite all the agreements, initiatives, pressures, and efforts. Moreover, this is taking place in the shadow of a decline of the PLO's institutions, with the two founding PLO members – the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Popular Democratic Front (PDF) – refraining from taking part in these institutions' proceedings, despite the fact that both these organizations as well as other factions, have confronted all attempts to create alternatives to the PLO.

The Palestinian leadership's stance against 'the [U.S.-sponsored] deal of the century' is a point in its favor in national and patriotic terms. It is a firm position in confronting the Trump administration that has imposed its control over the world – Russia, China, NATO, the EU – while Palestine alone is boldly and unwaveringly saying 'No'. This heroic posture, however, will remain just that in light of what we know about the internal Palestinian situation.

And to this one should add the breakdown of the Arab order that has tangibly begun to turn against its own resolutions as declared in the [2002/2007] Arab Peace Initiative, especially regarding recognition of Israel. In fact, the latest Arab developments are likely to ensure that Palestinians' will be left alone in this confrontation with Israel and the Trump administration.

In order to be implemented, any decisions, no matter how necessary and important, require a balance of power that is different from what we have today. And the first step towards changing this balance must focus on restoring our national unity as our primary concern, if we are to implement the PCC's resolutions. The inter-Palestinian issue must take national precedence over all other issues, no matter how important they may be.

"Without that, there can be no hope of changing the current balance of power," concludes Habib.

End…

 

BOLD RESOLUTION: "In a step expected by observers of the Palestinian situation, the PCC adopted a bold resolution on Monday that revoked recognition of Israel, ended security coordination with it, and authorized the PLO to follow up and implement these resolutions," writes Wednesday's editorial in the UAE daily al-Khaleej.

The PCC's resolutions also linked recognition of Israel to the occupation state's recognition of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital based on the June 5th 1967 borders.

The decision to adopt these resolutions was not an easy one to take. But it was no longer acceptable to remain without taking such a decision, especially in light of Israel's continued violation of the agreements and understandings reached with the PA under regional and international sponsorship over the past years.

The fact is that the occupation state went too far in humiliating the PA and portraying it as impotent before its people, and as unable to take meaningful decisions in response to such endless violations. The primary manifestation of this has been the violence against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and other Palestinian cities and occupied territories, who have been staging 'Marches of Return' for months in opposition to the policy of settlement-construction, blockade, the violation of holy sites, and the Hebrew state's other policies that are meant to suppress the legitimate owners of the land and uproot them from their country.

Many issues have accumulated and driven the PCC to adopt these latest resolutions, perhaps the most important of which are the developments regarding final status issues in the Arab/Israeli conflict, including, of course, the right of return, an end to settlement activities, and recognition of a fully sovereign Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.

Rather than respect these rights, and encouraged by the U.S., Israel has taken decisions that have contributed to weakening the PA and President Mahmoud 'Abbas. Even worse, it has persisted with its policy of settlement construction, so much so that the outlines of the promised Palestinian state have begun to disappear, after they have been besieged by settlements from every direction.

But the matter is not confined to Israel's policies alone. It also concerns the U.S. itself, which has continued to claim that it is a sponsor of peace. For, as soon as President Trump took office two years ago, the U.S. administration changed from a sponsor of peace to the Palestinians' enemy. It took steps in which it confirmed that it fully sides with Israel. This is especially true of its controversial decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and its subsequent decisions that are unfair to the Palestinians, including the expulsion of the PLO's delegation from Washington, ending U.S. aid to UNRWA, and hostility towards Palestine in international forums by using its veto right at the UN Security Council so as to prevent it from denouncing Israel for the crimes it commits in the occupied Palestinian territories on a daily basis.

The pressing question now is this: What will happen after the decision to revoke the Palestinian recognition of Israel? Will this bring an end to Israel's policies in dealing with the PA?

The situation seems difficult for the Palestinians and their leadership. But what is certain is that this decision will reshuffle the cards and cast its shadow over the moves that have already begun to reach what has come to be referred to as 'the deal of the century.'

"But this 'deal' has now been exposed to the winds," concludes the daily.

Ends…

 

2-Khashoggi one month on

 

The Saudis will not hand over the 18 suspects to be tried before Turkish courts. They will not reveal [Khashoggi's] corpse's location. And President Erdogan is well aware of this. But the pressing question is this: Why does he continue to raise these demands while refraining from revealing the facts; all the facts at one go? And why does he refrain from moving on to the next phase, that of an international investigation that will compel Saudi Arabia to cooperate with investigators?... What is certain, however, is that the Saudi authorities, and Prince bin Salman in particular, have moved from the phase of attack to that of defense. They have become more flexible in dealing with many regional files and are using their strongest weapon – money – to recruit allies in confronting this crisis. After all, this crisis poses an unprecedented existential threat to these authorities given its complex threads and the involvement of international parties in it-- 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com

The political situation in the U.S. is unprecedented. It is characterized by the sharp conflict between the deep state and the president, and between the president and the leading media, which are encouraged by the deep state's position, of course. This unprecedented situation – as well as the imminent mid-term Congressional elections and the Republican Party's fears of losing them – has forced Trump to change his positions, leading up to his demand for the whole truth, and even going so far as to brandish the possibility of sanctions on Saudi Arabia. Yet no one can doubt his concern for the safeguarding his relations with the Saudi leadership in light of his well-known calculations and that could later lead to a deal ...In conclusion, Jamal Khashoggi did not turn the world upside down, as is being said. The world was already turned upside down. In fact, had it not been so, Khashoggi's case would have passed without much uproar, despite its boundless ugliness and manifest rashness--Yasser az-Za'atra in Qatari al-Arab

 

While the Saudi authorities have been less than transparent in dealing with the Khashoggi case, especially as regards revealing the location of Khashoggi's body and who issued the order to murder him, Turkey has also been dragging its feet in revealing the evidence it claims to possess about the case, notes the editor-in-chief of an online pan-Arab daily. The international, mainly Western, interest in the Khashoggi case is not the result of a conspiracy, as some have claimed, argues a moderate Jordanian Islamist in a Doha daily. It is the product of a number of factors, the most important of which are the anarchy and fluidity that characterize the current international situation, and the timing at which this case erupted on the American scene.

 

THE ONLY CERTAIN TRUTH: "A month has passed since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder in his country's Istanbul consulate," writes Editor-in-Chief 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.

But the only certain truth so far is that he was alive when he entered the consulate and was dead when he left it. But what remains as a puzzling mystery is the state of his corpse: Was it cut up into pieces or is it complete? Is it with or without a head? And who issued the orders to kill him? And how will the final episode of this series end?

The Saudi authorities have admitted that the murder took place inside its consulate. It also named the 15 members of the 'death squad' that it said was responsible for the murder. But it has refused all of Turkey's requests to reveal the name of the local collaborator to whom the corpse was handed and how he has disposed of it. It has also refused to reveal the identity of the person who issued the orders to carry out the crime.

A review of the manner in which the Saudi authorities have been dealing with this crime demonstrates that they believe that admitting to it is less serious than revealing the location of the corpse and its condition due to the consequences that may have negative repercussions for the entire current Saudi regime and topple some of its senior figures.

We believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will receive not receive any answer to the question he has posed to Saudi Public Prosecutor Saud al-Mu'jib – who is currently visiting Turkey – regarding the corpse's location or the identity of the person who issued the order to kill him, quite simply because Mr. Mu'jib does not know the corpse's location; moreover, he would not dare to point the finger at Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman, as the Turkish president expects and hopes.

President Erdogan confronted the Saudi public prosecutor and told him: 'We must solve this case and there is no need for procrastination. It is illogical to try to save certain individuals' – in reference to Prince Mohammad bin Salman. However, the same demands may also be directed at President Erdogan who has promised to reveal all the facts. Moreover, sources close to him have insisted that he is in possession of audiotapes and videotapes that confirm how the murder occurred and that many officials have seen, most recently CIA Director Gina Haspel, who visited Ankara around a week ago and reported back to her boss, Donald Trump, who has kept his silence ever since and has not mentioned the matter at all – may God undo his knotted tongue.

The Saudis will not hand over the 18 suspects to be tried before Turkish courts. They will not reveal the corpse's location. And President Erdogan is well aware of this. But the pressing question is this: Why does he continue to raise these demands while refraining from revealing the facts; all the facts at one go? And why does he refrain from moving on to the next phase, that of an international investigation that will compel Saudi Arabia to cooperate with investigators?

Turkish sources have once again returned to the weapon of leaks, the most important of which two days ago concerned a list of figures have been targeted for assassination by the Saudi authorities that were behind Khashoggi's murder. This list includes other Saudi opposition figures living in more than one country – Turkey, European and other Middle Eastern countries. Moreover, the party behind this scheme is acting in cooperation with American, Egyptian, Israeli, and Emirati intelligence agencies. These leaks have also claimed that President Erdogan himself is one of this scheme's targets. However, like previous such leaks, they speak in general terms and do not name any names, which casts doubt on their credibility.

What is certain, however, is that the Saudi authorities, and Prince bin Salman in particular, have moved from the phase of attack to that of defense. They have become more flexible in dealing with many regional files and are using their strongest weapon – money – to recruit allies in confronting this crisis. After all, this crisis poses an unprecedented existential threat to these authorities given its complex threads and the involvement of international parties in it.

The most significant development in the U.S. is not the media mobilization behind this issue with the aim of keeping it alive as long as possible, but the emergence of a new theory whose most important advocate is the Republican Elliot Abrams, who served as an official in former U.S. president George Bush Jr.'s administration.

This theory is finding widespread acceptance in Congress and among the political and economic elite. It says that ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as many people have been demanding, is not the solution. The solution is to bring about changes in the Saudi regime and expand its decision-making circles rather than concentrating them in the hands of one person. Ending arms' sales would promote Iran's interests and those of other countries such as China and Russia that are ready to fill any vacuum created by the U.S. in this regard, making billions of dollars from the Saudi treasury.

Trump's silence may be the calm before the storm, as some in Washington are claiming, because they believe that his attempts to save his 'friend' Prince bin Salman have almost reached a dead-end. Meanwhile, the American 'establishment' is ready to confront Trump and perhaps tighten the noose around his presidency's neck.

We await two important and fundamental developments in this case: To find the corpse's location and what happened to it; and the fulfilment of Erdogan's promises to reveal the whole truth and publish the audio and video evidence. And we hope that we do not have long to wait.

"We will have more to say once these two developments occur," concludes 'Atwan.

End…

 

DROWNING IN CONSPIRACIES: "Many have drowned in conspiracy theories, seeking an explanation for the secret behind the international interest in the martyr Jamal Khashoggi's case," writes Yasser az-Za'atra in Wednesday's Qatari daily al-Arab.

The inability to find an answer to this question seems to be important. Moreover, many similar incidents have occurred – and with figures who were more important politically than Khashoggi – but they did not receive the same attention as in the martyr Jamal's case.

A number of factors could provide a prelude to answering this question, perhaps the first of which is the fact that international concern with the Khashoggi case has effectively been confined to the U.S./Western axis. The other axes – with China and Russia at the forefront – have been absent. And when we speak of the Western axis, we are speaking of those states that are closest to Saudi Arabia, that have strong relations with it, and that are naturally concerned with keeping it on their side rather than losing it.

The other important issue is the fact that this Western axis is no longer as united as it once was. It was riddled with disagreements even before Trump came to power, and these have become much worse since. And this, to begin with, undermines the claims of conspiracies orchestrated by a single and united side, and that were not true in most cases anyway.

Another important issue is that Trump has no interest in denouncing the Saudi leadership for what happened to Jamal. In fact, it was clear that was concerned to do the opposite. But faced with a torrent of attacks from the media and the Democratic Party three weeks before the mid-term Congressional elections, Trump had no alternative but to change his position, despite his obvious vacillation in this regard. The timing of what is happening is thus an extremely important issue.

We may now begin to consider the reasons for this international concern, and the most important by far is the anarchy and fluidity that characterize the world today. This is an unprecedented situation for over a century perhaps. And this anarchy prevents the understandings that can decide the international situation and determine the fate of its problems.

In addition to this political fluidity, there is the enormous power of the traditional and social media that now have the strongest influence on politicians all around the world, but especially in those countries that enjoy margins of freedom. The situation is largely different in totalitarian or semi-totalitarian regimes such as China and Russia.

In this regard, we need to bear in mind that Jamal was a journalist with extensive relations with leading sectors. There is no doubt that this dimension – in addition to the crime's rash and ugly character – has played a role. However, it would not have been enough had it not been for the general political situation as mentioned above, and for the American political scene that we shall now speak of below.

The political situation in the U.S. is unprecedented. It is characterized by the sharp conflict between the deep state and the president, and between the president and the leading media, which are encouraged by the deep state's position, of course. This unprecedented situation – as well as the imminent mid-term Congressional elections and the Republican Party's fears of losing them – has forced Trump to change his positions, leading up to his demand for the whole truth, and even going so far as to brandish the possibility of sanctions on Saudi Arabia. Yet no one can doubt his concern for the safeguarding his relations with the Saudi leadership in light of his well-known calculations and that could later lead to a deal.

In conclusion, Jamal Khashoggi did not turn the world upside down, as is being said. The world was already turned upside down. In fact, had it not been so, Khashoggi's case would have passed without much uproar, despite its boundless ugliness and manifest rashness.

"Broadly speaking, this is how political changes come about: they are the result of a number of factors, even if seems that the most important is the last and most direct cause of what may happen," concludes Za'atra.

Ends…

 

3-Rebuffing Putin

 

Europe's leading powers along with Washington have told the Russian president that they will not participate in Syria's reconstruction without progress towards a new Syrian political regime, says Randa Taqiyyiddin in today's pan-Arab al-Hayat

 

President Putin's efforts to convince France and Germany to take part in the reconstruction of Syria at the four-way weekend Istanbul summit were firmly rebuffed, claims an anti-Damascus Lebanese commentator in a Saudi daily. Moreover, Washington has changed track and is now more involved in the Syrian question, insisting on the need to find a comprehensive transitional solution before any reconstruction efforts can begin.

 

FIRM REJECTION: "During the four-way summit hosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last Saturday, Vladimir Putin asked his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German counterpart Angela Merkel to begin taking part in Syria's reconstruction so that rebuilding what was destroyed would allow the refugees to return to their country," writes Randa Taqiyyiddin in Wednesday's Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

But this was met by a firm rejection from both leaders.

Macron told the Russian president that the regime's war on those opposed to it has led millions of Syrians to leave their country, and that the only way of finding a permanent solution is to come up with a political settlement that allows all Syrians to live in permanent peace and security in their country – which can only come about after a comprehensive political solution that includes all of the country's constituents. He added that the regime's logic based on recapturing the cities it has lost militarily cannot guarantee Syria's stability or ensure the refugees' safe return.

Macron's position – that as long as the regime refuses to negotiate a comprehensive political solution that includes all of Syria's popular constituents, it would be difficult to reconstruct the country – is based on a clear and logical argument. The U.S. has already adopted the same position.

For how does Putin expect the country to be rebuilt while Bashar al-Assad remains in power, despite his attitude towards a nation that he has forcefully displaced and killed, and whose cities and homes he has destroyed?

How does he expect the country to be reconstructed with French, German and U.S. support, when the people's fate remains in the hands of the man who has forcefully displaced them, dropped explosive barrels on them, and sought the help of Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces in order to remain the leader of a destroyed country?

In his upcoming summit with his American counterpart Donald Trump in Paris on November 11th (on the margins of the celebrations of Armistice Day and the Peace Forum that Macron is holding), Putin will find that all members of the 'Small Group on Syria' have adopted the same stance towards Syria's reconstruction. After all, it is impossible to rebuild the country while Bashar al-Assad continues to oppose any discussion of the constitution for the future of a country and a nation that aspires to a transitional period that removes Assad and the foreign forces, and that grants the Syrian people the right to determine their future and fate.

Putin's insistence that the Europeans should initiate the reconstruction process means that Russia alone cannot rebuild the country. Even if Putin secures an eternal base in Tartous on the Mediterranean, Russia realizes that it cannot assume the burden of reconstruction alone. True, Putin has imposed himself on the Middle East and perhaps the world via his intervention and war in Syria. But Russia no longer has the Soviet Union's power and abilities that were once equal to the other major powers including the U.S. and the free world in these respects.

In fact, Putin's insistence on securing France and Germany's role in reconstructing Syria expresses Russia's need for Europe in this process. But this is impossible as long as the situation remains as it is, and as long as there is no genuine political solution.

The negotiations over the committee charged with drafting a Syrian constitution and the fact that this committee is supposed to hold its first meeting in Geneva under UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura before the end of the year, indicate that an agreement was reached at the four-way summit in Istanbul over an issue that Moscow used to oppose in principle because it claimed it would be difficult to convince the regime to accept this immediately.

Macron, Merkel, and Erdogan, however, managed to impose this on the summit's final communique. But who can believe that Putin, who has saved Bashar al-Assad and protected his regime, cannot convince him of the need to actively join the negotiations regarding his country's future?

The U.S. administration has now raised its involvement in the Syrian file, and senior diplomats have been appointed to follow up on this issue, one of which will visit Paris today to coordinate with the French over the Syrian issue. This is a new development in the U.S.'s policy after its previous talk of leaving Syria. Washington has now changed direction and the administration is involved in the effort to launch political negotiations, rather that leaving everything in the Middle East to Russia. Trump wanted to withdraw all his forces from the region, but some members of his inner circle and Macron have convinced him that it would be better to remain there as long as Iranian forces are in Syria.

"But the question remains: Will the U.S.'s Israeli ally allow for a political transition given that, like Russia and Iran, it prefers Bashar al-Assad to remain in power?" asks Taqiyyiddin in conclusion.

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 30.10.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Values and interests

 

Israelis are heading to the polls to elect local and regional representatives, with a newly instituted vacation day seeking to challenge widespread voter apathy and raise the country's traditionally low turnout rates. Ballot stations nationwide opened at 7 a.m. and will close by 10 p.m.  The preliminary results are expected to trickle in overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, with a final count anticipated by Wednesday. Some 6.6 million Israeli citizens and residents over the age of 17 are eligible to cast their votes in the local elections, electing officials to some 251 city, town, and regional councils nationwide, according to Interior Ministry figures. In Israel's largest cities, veteran mayors in Tel Aviv and Haifa were battling increasingly formidable challengers, while in Jerusalem, where the incumbent is not running, the race appeared to be wide open. Jerusalem is holding the most nail-biting contest in the country, with no clear winner emerging in the run-up to the race. The front-runners in the mayoral race are Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin and Jerusalem council members Moshe Lion and Ofer Berkovitch. Ultra-Orthodox candidate Yossi Deitch, a Jerusalem deputy mayor, has also been campaigning for the post and has cast himself as a dark horse. In East Jerusalem, most of the city's 300,000 Arab residents were expected to uphold a longstanding boycott of the municipal elections.

A top Palestinian body on Monday passed a motion urging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas to suspend all agreements with Israel and revoke recognition of the Jewish state until Israel formally recognizes a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. "We recognize the right to resist the occupation in all methods that comply with international law," the Palestinian Central Council, a Palestine Liberation Organization decision-making body, said in its decision. The body, convening in Ramallah, said Palestinians should end "all forms" of security coordination with Israel and nullify several economic agreements that it said were being "ignored" by Jerusalem. The vote is not binding, and a final decision rests with 'Abbas. The PLO said that a committee will now be created to examine the recommendation, which would need the approval of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas. Formal adoption of the recommendation would bring the Oslo Accord to an end. Previous votes by the council in January 2018 and in 2015 to suspend security coordination with Israel were not implemented.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon slammed the Palestinian Authority today after the PLO Central Council decisions. "This is a big mistake," Kahlon, who is chairman of the Kulanu Party and a member of Israel's security cabinet, told Army Radio. "Over the last year, Ramllah has become more and more extreme and is torpedoing any chance of an agreement. Their desire is to starve the Gaza Strip." Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid said that the PLO's decision was a "bad joke. For all we care, they can decide not to recognize the sun, the invention of the wheel, and gravity," Lapid said. "We established a glorious state with our own hands without asking anyone. We will continue to build strong and safe Israel and when the Palestinians decide to recognize reality they are more than welcome to give us a call." Education Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the PLO's announcement by stating: "The Palestinians have never been serious about recognizing Israel. They have always been planning to destroy Israel piece by piece and throw the Jews out of our land. The charade has ended. They have shown their true colors - the Palestinians are not interested in peace and never have been."

Elsewhere, Israel has a plan to spend NIS 2.8 billion to help expand the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement by 20,000 new homes within the next 10 years. Construction of all but 470 units in the plan still needs bureaucratic and prime ministerial approvals, including for some 4,200 units that would be in the highly controversial and unbuilt E1 section of the city. Located in Area C of the West Bank just outside of Jerusalem, Ma'aleh Adumim has a population of 37,817 and is the third-largest Jewish city in the West Bank, after Modi'in Illit, with 70,081 and Betar Illit, with a population of 54,557. Ariel, the fourth largest settlement has a population of 19,626, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics' 2017 database. The completion of 20,000 new homes for Ma'aleh Adumim could more than triple the size of the city.

In diplomatic news, Israeli leaders on Monday welcomed the election of Jair Bolsonaro, a controversial hardliner, as new president of Brazil, hailing his bona fide pro-Israel credentials. "I am certain that your election will lead to a great friendship between our nations and to a strengthening of Israel-Brazil ties," Prime Minister Netanyahu told Bolsonaro during a congratulatory phone call. "Looking forward to your visit to Israel," he added, referring to the far-right politician's pledge to come to Israel as president. A declared friend of the Jewish state, Bolsonaro has said that he will move Brazil's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and that his first foreign trip will be to Israel. A source close to the president-elect told Kan public radio that Bolsonaro still wants to move the embassy and that the issue will be considered soon. At the same time, the source added that the new government will investigate if such a move "would help advance the Middle East peace process." Brazil and the Arab world have close business ties and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the embassy there could hurt trade, the source added.

About Gaza, Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday that Israel's top priority in dealing with the ongoing violence is to prevent the infiltration of terrorists into Israel and to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control. While another large-scale military operation in the Strip might prove unavoidable, it is in Israel's interest to try to do everything possible, including accepting the mediation and assistance offered by the international community, to prevent such a scenario, he said. "We are acting first of all to protect Israel from infiltration by people who come to harm us – our soldiers and our communities – and who want to cross the border and kill our civilians and soldiers. We have prevented it thus far," he told Israeli diplomatic reporters during a briefing at his Jerusalem office.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces has ordered a criminal probe into the killing of Razan al-Najjar, a Palestinian medic who was killed at the end of May during protests on the Gaza border. The IDF's Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Sharon Afek rejected the findings of the preliminary military investigation from June. He ordered the Military Police to open a criminal investigation. The June investigation found that Israeli soldiers did not fire directly at Razan al-Najjar.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Saudi Arabia and Israel held secret meetings which led to an estimated $250-million deal, including the transfer of Israeli espionage technologies to the kingdom, citing an exclusive report by the United Arab Emirate news website al-Khaleej. Some of the spy systems, which are the most sophisticated systems Israel has ever sold to any Arab country, have already been transferred to Saudi Arabia and put into use after a Saudi technical team received training in operating them, the report added. The exclusive report also revealed that the two countries exchanged strategic military information in the meetings, which were conducted in Washington and London through a European mediator. Such cooperation would not be the first of its kind between Israel and Saudi Arabia. In September, al-Khaleej reported that Saudi Arabia had purchased Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system to defend itself from Houthi missile attacks. The deal, which was reportedly mediated by the United States included further plans to reach an agreement on broad military cooperation between the two countries.

Finally, Volkswagen and Intel Corp's Mobileye are planning to roll out Israel's first ride-hailing service using self-driving cars starting early next year. The two companies are forming a joint venture with Israeli car importer Champion Motors, under which Volkswagen will provide the electric vehicles and Mobileye its autonomous driving technology, the companies said in a statement on Monday. The Israeli government, which has accepted the proposal, will also support it by sharing required infrastructure and traffic data, the companies said.

 

 

VALUES AND INTERESTS: Nadav Eyal in Yedioth Ahronoth argues that Israel must consider the long term in its international ties. The support for Orban in Hungary, Duterte in the Philippines, and Bolsonaro in Brazil is not worth their promise to transfer embassies to Jerusalem.

"Should countries, and especially Israel, have moral or liberal considerations in foreign relations? This is a resounding question, and the answer to it, it must be said openly, is not self-evident. If the leader of the Philippines, for example, supports Israel – should we care that he admitted to killing civilians with his own hands? And if the elected president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, admires military dictatorship and threatens to kill leftists – is that important, given that he says he will transfer his country's embassy to Jerusalem?

Diplomatic relations are based on interests, first and foremost. A constant attempt to educate other countries, many of which are not democratic, is not necessarily effective. It is often unsuccessful when it comes from superpowers, such as the United States in the 1990s, and certainly Israeli pressure will be even less effective. Netanyahu's Israel has immediate concerns. The government wants to promote the transfer of embassies to Jerusalem and block any recognition of a Palestinian state. Whoever is willing to supply that - even if he is called Victor Orban, for example, the Hungarian prime minister, whom the Jewish community in Hungary feels incites anti-Semitism - will be considered acceptable and legitimate.

These are the claims that arise again and again when a tyrant or a democratically elected leader appears and seeks to curb freedom in his country - but says that he supports Israel. It is appropriate to answer them, because the error apparent in these assumptions is profound and has far-reaching implications.

Foreign policy is not based only on the short term, but also and mainly on long-term relations. What will happen on the day after Orban, Duterte, Trump and others? Does Israel maintain friendly relations with these people, or a relationship of demonstrable political support? In order to answer the question, we must examine how leaders use Israel, and what the second political camp has to say about it. There is a difference between friendly relations, which Israel can and should maintain with every country – except those riddled with war crimes and crimes against humanity, and a passionate and close relationship that could endanger Israel's future after the disappearance of the authoritarian leader. Perhaps Israel should maintain good relations with the Duterte's Philippines, but inviting him to Israel, the only Western country he has visited, was precisely the kind of wanton excess that will in the future come at a steep political price for Israel.

It is important for Netanyahu that the Poles block pan-European initiatives for the peace process (the truth is that there are none, but what the heck), and perhaps the government is prepared to help Poland operate leverages in order to coerce the U.S. to support it regarding Russia. But to gleefully run to a humiliating compromise agreement with the government in Warsaw concerning the historical memory of Polish collaborators with the Nazis in the Holocaust?

So the first mistake is short-term thinking: The willingness to immediately sell all the political assets that Israel holds (and the fact is that these countries are courting Israel), in exchange for a puny return of blocking some failed Palestinian initiative. The second mistake is the assumption that Israel, as the state of the Jewish people, has no moral or practical duty to act cautiously. Morally, because as a people that were persecuted for generations, Jews have always been devoted to human and civil rights, desperately advancing a liberal reality, and sometimes sacrificed their lives in its name. But even if this perception seems to be downright naïve, there is still a duty of practical caution in such relations.

The reason they seek Israel's closeness is not only that she is a successful, entrepreneurial nation with close ties to the U.S., but also the ability to be cleansed and to whitewash through partnership and friendship with the Jewish state. And that is exactly because of the Jewish people's moral duty to be cautious – i.e., because the Jews who were persecuted still took care to advance the liberal values of the Enlightenment. The duty of caution is not to corrupt anything that is of benefit to the State of Israel, and that is precisely the aura that the Jewish state enjoys because of the actions of our forefathers in the past. Let us not damage it – neither with Brazil, nor with Hungary."

Ends…

 

ISRAEL STORMING ARAB COUNTRIES: Yoni Ben-Menachem on News1 claims the PA is deeply frustrated by the success of formal Israeli visits to Gulf states. The Palestinian problem is no longer the most pressing priority for the Arab world, which fears Iran and sees Israel as a new ally.

"Senior officials in the Palestinian Authority say that during this past week Israel has been carrying out a diplomatic offensive on the Gulf states in order to begin acclimatizing them to the idea of normalization before reaching an agreement with the Palestinians on a solution to the conflict.

Prime Minister Netanyahu made a public visit in Oman and will be followed there by Minister Yisrael Katz. Minister Miri Regev joined a Judo delegation to Abu Dhabi, another sports delegation embarked to Qatar, and Minister Ayoub Karra went to an international media conference in Dubai. The next country on Israel's list is Bahrain. This is the background for understanding the statements made by Bahrain's foreign minister, who publicly defended the ruler of Oman for inviting the prime minister to visit his country. Netanyahu said on October 28 that there will be more visits to Arab countries.

The scene of the Israeli flag openly raised in Abu Dhabi, when the Israeli Judo delegation won two gold medals and the national anthem 'Hatikva' was played, only strengthens the Palestinian feeling that Israel has attained an important diplomatic achievement by demonstrating its presence in Arab countries as just another country from the region, instead of a 'hostile political entity'.

These Arab states do not object to Israel and even welcome it. A senior Palestinian official avows that Israel has managed to skip over most of the articles of the Arab peace initiative, directly to the last section dealing with normalization. It has begun normalizing relations with the Arab states, delaying to later the attempt to achieve a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has succeeded in persuading several Arab countries to accept his political approach, and he is aided by two important developments: The growing danger to the Gulf states from Iran, and the unprecedented political support he is receiving from President Trump in everything related to normalization with Arab states.

The political offensive with the Gulf states is taking place without any country mentioning the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the American embassy to it, or the low-intensity war on the border of the Gaza Strip for the past seven months. Israel's settlement in the West Bank is also no longer mentioned. The moment the Trump administration, unlike the Obama administration, removed this issue from its agenda, the Arab world began to get used to it. The Palestinians fear is that the Gulf states are beginning to get used to the new Israeli policy, which as far as they are concerned is the beginning of the execution of the ideas that appear in President Trump's American peace plan, dubbed 'the deal of the century'.

Israel has no diplomatic relations with any Arab country other than Egypt and Jordan. Egyptian President Sisi agreed to a public meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the sidelines of last month's UN General Assembly debate. Behind the scenes there are security and intelligence ties with several Arab countries. All this openness in the relations of Arab countries with Israel is taking place prior to the new sanctions President Trump is planning to impose on Iran in November.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas' mistake was misreading regional developments. The Palestinian problem no longer tops the Arab world's agenda. It is the Iranian danger that is most worrisome to the Arab countries, who are beginning to regard Israel as their natural ally rather than an enemy. At this stage the Israeli political concept is winning. As long as the Israeli government does not make any mistakes regarding its policy toward the West Bank and Gaza, the Trump administration will also adopt its point of view.

According to senior Fatah officials, in recent months the PA has sought out the Trump administration to see if there is any way of ending the rift between the PA and the administration, declared by 'Abbas after Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The secret contacts were held by Majed Faraj, Mahmoud 'Abbas' confidante, in meetings with advisor Jared Kushner and billionaire Ron Lauder. But so far they have failed to yield positive results. The very existence of these contacts indicates that 'Abbas is searching for a way to get off his high horse, following harsh criticism of his handling of the situation by the Fatah leadership, and fear that President Trump will try to impose his peace deal on the Palestinians, following the unilateral steps he has already taken on Jerusalem and refugees.

The Palestinians are liable to pay the price of their obstinate refusal and the latest developments in Israel's conduct toward the Gulf states prove that a positive change in the Arab world can be achieved in relation to Israel. As Omani Foreign Minister Yousef Ben Alawi stated last week: 'Israel is an existing state in the region and we all understand this. Perhaps it is time to treat Israel as other countries are treated.'

Netanyahu's well-publicized visit to Oman proved that it is possible to maintain diplomatic relations with Arab countries even before reaching a political agreement with the PA. These relations are limited, but it is important that the Arab world begin to get used to them, despite Palestinian protests. Israel must continue its secret diplomatic effort to persuade other Arab countries to invite Israeli delegations to visit their capitals and slowly open to public view what is happening behind the scenes. It is very important to accustom the Palestinians and the masses in the Arab countries that Israel is not about to disappear, and that she is a fact in the Middle East that cannot be ignored."

Ends…

 

AMMAN KNOWS ISRAEL WILL NOT RETALIATE: Yossi Ahimeir in Maariv stresses the peace agreement is no less important to Jordan than to Israel, and King 'Abdullah is banking on Israel not to reduce the water supply, not to disrupt economic cooperation, not to take defiant action on Temple Mount, and continue to guarantee the throne's security.

"On Friday, the 24th anniversary of the peace agreement between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan, the Prime Minister held a historic visit. He did not come to Amman to meet King 'Abdullah and toast the continuation of peaceful relations with the Hashemite Kingdom; He went much farther away, to the Sultanate of Oman, which lies on the Southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, facing Iran. We do not have official peace relations with Oman, but Sultan Qaboos is probably willing to cooperate with us, in the name of peace.

And thus Netanyahu proved his assertion, which he makes in every opportunity, that Israel is warming its relations with several Arab countries in an unprecedented manner, in contradiction to the worsening hostility toward us in the immediate neighborhood; on our borders with Syria and Gaza, with the encouragement of non-Arab Iran and Turkey. He also went in order to signal to Iran that: You are in Syria, we are close to you, in the Persian Gulf.

While the prime minister did not visit Jordan, other Israelis did make a visit there on Friday. They were the fighters of the 669 rescue unit, which were dispatched aboard several Israeli Air Force helicopters to rescue people trapped by the floods that hit the Eastern Dead Sea. 20 Jordanian children and hikers were killed - an understandable reason for a day of mourning in the kingdom.

Even without this heavy calamity, Jordan should not have been expected to mark the peace treaty in any special way. Quite the opposite; the anniversary is usually marked by parades of opponents of the agreement, who are also identified with the opposition to the royal family. 'Abdullah understands better than anyone that these are demonstrations against his throne that usually disperse peacefully. This year, the King found a creative solution to calm the hostile spirits, by announcing that he would not extend the lease of two Jordanian enclaves in Israel – in Naharayim and the Arava. In so doing, he only exemplified his weakness. He surrendered to the anti-Israeli mood in his kingdom, which is also finding expression in anti-Semitic speeches in his parliament and in hate articles in the local media.

How different King 'Abdullah is from his father, the brave King Hussein, who towards the end of his life signed the peace treaty and even came to Israel to console the grieving families following the abominable murder of seven girls on the Peace Island in Naharayim in 1997. In the days of Hussein, the vile murderer was placed in long-term incarceration. Today he is a free man who publicly preaches the murder of Israelis.

King 'Abdullah has not broken the rules of the game. In his view, and he is right, he did not violate the appendix to the agreement. He only announced, with his grace, a year in advance, that the lease will cease, and the territories will revert to full Jordanian ownership. Their color will also change – the green and the blossoming will return to being yellow and pallid. The main thing is that this gift will satisfy the appetites of his domestic opponents.

The royal palace understands that Israel will not retaliate against Jordan. Keeping the peace treaty is as important to the kingdom as it is to its neighbor to the West. Israel will not reduce its water supply, will not cut off economic and other forms of cooperation, will not take defiant action on Temple Mount, and will not cease to guarantee the security of the throne. Negotiations are probably already being held with the royal palace in a bid to soften the steps it has taken, with its implications for the future.

While contemplating our relations with Jordan, we can hear the sounds of Hamas' frenzied rhetoric and rocket fire on the Gaza border, and the beating of the drums of war echoing from Syria and Lebanon. The prime minister's visit to distant Oman and the complicated relationship with nearby Amman are indeed important, but let us not forget: In the Middle East everything is liquid, everything might turn against us suddenly, with a 180 degrees U-turn."

Ends…

 

NO SURPRISE FROM JORDANIAN KING: Motti Karpel in Makor Rishon asserts that the annulment of Jordan's leasing agreement indicates the essence of peace agreements with our Arab enemies, and also the short-sightedness of Israeli politicians.

"King 'Abdullah of Jordan sure does have a keen sense of humor. His decision to announce the cancellation of the leasing of the territories in Naharayim and Tzofar precisely during the anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, is a real poke in the eye of all those who seek peace. If there was anything that remained intact from Yitzhak Rabin's political legacy, it was the peace agreement with Jordan. Until this week. Now it too, like every element of the Oslo process, has begun to crack.

The cancellation of the lease does not formally harm the peace agreement with Jordan. It is fully anchored in its annexes, and the Jordanians were given full right to cancel the lease 25 years later. But the cancellation hurts something deeper: The spirit of the agreement. Wording on a piece of paper is not what makes peace. There is supposed to be a spirit of compromise, trust, acceptance, reconciliation, mutual recognition and genuine and sincere willingness from both sides to march onwards together. If these are lacking, the formal details will change nothing. This is precisely the meaning of the cancellation of the lease agreements: A blow to the spirit of the peace treaty with Jordan.

The importance of the cancellation can be underestimated and seen as marginal, but in fact it points to the essence of the peace agreements with our Arab enemies; temporary arrangements, rickety by their very nature, which have only temporary and specific value. Any such agreement, with any party, must be taken with a very big grain of salt. There is no room for celebrations like those that were held here during the joyous Oslo days, and for the feelings of euphoria and messianic tidings that spread among some sectors of our society. This does not mean that it is forbidden to sign such agreements, but it certainly does mean that it is absolutely forbidden to see them as more than what they are: A temporary political arrangement, to be measured in terms of momentary loss and benefit, and not greeted with declarations about the coming of the Messiah.

In any agreement, the parties tend to postpone many elements to future periods, 25 or even 50 years ahead. This is their way of bypassing impassable hurdles. In the proposals attempting to advance a peace agreement with the Arabs living in the Land of Israel, on the basis of the two-state solution, for example, the issue of Israeli sovereignty or security responsibility in the Jordan Valley is regularly included in the category of 'so and so years, and then we shall see'. This is just one example.

This little delusion, in which politicians and policy makers deceive themselves and the public, assumes that 25 years are beyond the dark mountains of time. Well, 25 years have passed, and anyone who thought the end could be postponed in the hope that it would never come has been proven wrong. The abrogation of the lease agreements by Jordan teaches us that we must never deny the future for the sake of the present and give up eternal assets in the name of a passing political or geo-strategic need. In any such agreement, the possibility must be taken into account that when the conditions of its signatories change, the agreement will be denied. Therefore no assets that are the bedrock of our existence should be given in return for it.

A member of one of the kibbutzim in the Beit Shean Valley, who was asked this week how he received the news of the cancellation of the lease agreements, responded with one word: 'Astonishment'. The fact that he was astonished by the cancellation of the lease agreements is in itself astonishing. The brainwashing that we have all been subjected to here, caused him to view these papers as something much more real than a temporary deal, good for the moment of signing. It did not occur to him that after 25 years the checks he received might bounce back from the bank. Only those who live in an imaginary Middle East, and not in the real world, can greet this fact with astonishment."

Ends…

 

TO WEAKEN HAMAS NOT TOPPLE IT: Yaniv Kubovich and Noa Landau in Haaretz contend the plan to keep Hamas in power in the Strip stems from a desire to prevent a collapse of Gaza's infrastructure.

"Political and military leaders have concluded that it would be better for Israel not to overthrow the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, officials who took part in the deliberations told Haaretz. A political source said Israel's policy on Hamas has not changed; the plan to keep the group in power in the Strip stems from a desire to prevent a collapse of Gaza's infrastructure, a problem that could harm Israel as well. Accordingly, the instructions to defense officials are to deter Hamas and weaken it, but in a way that will not put its control of Gaza at risk. Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to support efforts to reach an agreement that will restore quiet to the South.

The Israeli officials' conclusion stems from Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas' rigid stance on Gaza and the attempts to reach an agreement. 'Abbas is making it difficult to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, for example, by opposing the entry of fuel trucks financed by Qatar. Israel fears that this increases the chances of an escalation. According to the officials, 'Abbas is hoping for a flare-up because he believes that this would serve the PA in its reconciliation talks with Hamas. In the near term, he plans to increase the punitive measures against the organization, the officials say.

As a result, senior political and defense officials say Israel's talks with Hamas through intermediaries will be more effective than a process that involves the PA. Netanyahu told reporters Monday that he continues to support efforts to de-escalate tensions between Israel and the Strip. 'We are working to prevent Gaza forces getting into Israel to harm our soldiers and communities,' Netanyahu said. 'On the other hand, we are working to prevent a humanitarian crisis, which is why we are willing to accept UN and Egyptian mediation efforts to achieve quiet and fix the electricity situation.'

A political source added that 'there is no diplomatic solution with a group that wants to destroy us. The only solution is deterrence and a humanitarian solution to prevent a collapse that will end up exploding in our faces.' The source added that 'the collapse is a result of Abu Mazin's decision to cut the Gazans' funding. We were close to signing an agreement for getting back to calm, but it was scuttled by the protests at the fence Friday. They were getting fuel before, so we thought things would calm down, but then they came to the fence.'

According to political sources, Netanyahu wants to avoid a war, but that does not mean he will be able to. 'Our options are occupying Gaza, but if we had someone to give it to, we would have occupied it already,' one source said. 'And it has to be done in a way that prevents casualties. But there is no one to give it to; the Arabs do not want to hear about it, so the other option is to hit it hard without occupying it. To give us time. But actually, we are already giving them pretty hard blows.' Netanyahu is willing to take criticism because he believes he still has options to achieve quiet. 'It is not only a question of political capital, we have not exhausted all options,' the source said."

Ends…

 

TIME FOR ISRAELI/JORDANIAN COVERT DIALOGUE: Gilead Sher and Mor Ben-Kalifa, writing in The Institute for National Security Studies argue the profound common interests that Jordan and Israel have shared for decades may help in overcoming the abrogation of the leases, provided the crisis is handled promptly, far from the spotlight.

"King 'Abdullah II's dramatic announcement of the decision not to renew the special regime governing the areas of Zofar and Naharayim that are cultivated by Israelis is based on clause 6 in both Annex 1.B and Annex 1.C of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, which was signed on October 26, 1994. Clause 6 states:

Without prejudice to private rights of ownership of land within the area, this Annex will remain in force for 25 years, and shall be renewed automatically for the same periods, unless one-year prior notice of termination is given by either Party, in which case, at the request of either Party, consultations shall be entered into.

One year before the automatic renewal of the annex, King 'Abdullah announced that he will not renew the arrangement and will impose full Jordanian sovereignty over these areas. The two annexes to the peace treaty are identical, and relate to areas in the Naharayim/Baqura region in the North and to the Zofar region in the South, extending over about 200 and 500 acres, respectively. The complex reality in these two defined regions dictated a unique arrangement, governed by a 'special regime': Jordanian sovereignty, Israeli ownership of the land and/or agricultural cultivation of the region by Israeli farmers, and land rights that Jordan granted to Israel for renewable periods of 25 years each.

Covert relations between Israel and Jordan began in the 1950s and continued in the ensuing decades. In 1987 King Hussein and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres reached an informal principles agreement during a meeting in London. This agreement focused on a process, rather than on material issues: Convening an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations, which would discuss solutions for the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian problem on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 242; and the formation of joint committees, one of them for the negotiations between Israel and Jordanian-Palestinian representation. However, this agreement was torpedoed by both sides, first by Israel, in the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and then by King Hussein, who after the outbreak of the intifada in December 1987 renounced any involvement and claims to Jordanian sovereignty over the Palestinian territories. A joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation participated in the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. The signing of the Oslo Declaration of Principles by Israel and the PLO in September 1993 facilitated the renewal of the covert talks between Israel and Jordan, and a year later, the peace treaty was signed at the Arava border crossing. The agreement included minor border adjustments, including special provisions relating to the agricultural areas in Naharayim and in Zofar. The agreement also included a clause whereby 'Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.'

The royal family in Amman believes that if an Israeli-Palestinian permanent arrangement is not reached in general, and in relation to the Old City of Jerusalem in particular, matters could develop into a regional conflagration and pose a serious threat to Jordan. That is why the Jordanians have been active partners at key crossroads in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and first King Hussein and subsequently King 'Abdullah attended the various agreement-signing ceremonies between Israel and the PLO, including the eighth and last agreement signed to date – the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum of September 1999.

The Israel-Jordan peace treaty has survived difficult crises over the past twenty-four years, from the murder in 1997 of seven Israeli girls in Naharayim by a Jordanian soldier, and the failed attempted assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Mish'aal in Jordan during that same year, through the al-Aqsa intifada (2000-2005) and the violent riots on Temple Mount in 2014 and in 2017, to the murder of two Jordanian citizens by an Israeli security guard from the embassy in Amman in July 2017. Jordan had no ambassador in Israel for several long periods. However, and notwithstanding the political crises over the years, numerous understandings have been signed and implemented, in relation to economics, environmental quality, trade, public health, science, culture, and agriculture. Wide scale agreements have also been signed over the last decade relating to natural gas, water, and tourism.

The Red Sea/Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, the regional flagship venture intended initially to revive the Dead Sea, provide desalinated water to the region, generate hydroelectric energy, and develop the agriculture and tourism industries - is not progressing as planned on Israel's part. For its part, Jordan announced that it is proceeding independently with the project, and accused Israel of undermining the regional cooperation. The Jordanian-Palestinian-Israeli Jericho Corridor for Peace and Prosperity Initiative demonstrates efforts to promote an 'economic foundation for regional peace,' and is supposed to be a key component of the efforts to develop Palestinian industry in the West Bank. The Jordan Gateway project, a joint Israeli-Jordanian industrial zone spanning the river that is a natural border between the two countries in the Emek Hamaayanot region, is based on a free trade principle between both countries and the United States. It was agreed upon in 1998, but the bridge on the Israeli side was completed only during the summer of 2018, and the development works at the site will only begin in the near future.

As for security, both countries continue to cooperate fully along the peaceful border between them. Military and police weapons and equipment deals are carried out with the support and assistance of the United States away from public eye, and both armies maintain regular cooperation in relation to training. Nevertheless, Jordan considers the Israeli-Palestinian political deadlock and Israel's continued control over the West Bank as a substantive strategic threat. As long as the status quo continues and no progress is made toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, the Jordanians are concerned about expulsions of Palestinians to Jordanian territory. Prince Hassan, King Hussein's brother, once called this potential contingency a 'demographic aggression.'

Jordan is battling a poor, tense socio-economic situation, which derives inter alia from the enormous systemic economic, infrastructure, political, and social burden imposed on it by the more than one million refugees (some assess their number at 1.5 million, while the United Nations cites 760,360 refugees), the majority of whom fled from Syria, with some from Iraq and Yemen. Furthermore, the financial support from the Gulf states has diminished in recent years, and in 2017, Jordanian unemployment reached 18 percent, the highest level in 25 years. About one quarter of all college graduates are unemployed. The recession in Jordan is palpable as a result of the steadily rising prices of basic consumer goods and the drastic hikes in income tax and in corporate tax. In May 2018, The Economist ranked Amman as the most expensive city in Arab countries and 28th among cities globally.

As a result of the economic hardships in Jordan, there has been a surge in protests against the royal family over the last six months. In June, these protests intensified and spread to the major cities. Unlike most of the previous events, during these protests the demonstrators did not cover their faces. At the same time, deterrence by the security forces has eroded significantly. In response, in June King 'Abdullah dismissed Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki, and replaced him with Dr. Omar al-Razzaz, an economist and the Minister of Education, with the hope that he will generate a shift in public sentiments.

The prevailing assumption is that the demonstrations are political, and many argue that they are orchestrated by political opposition factions in the kingdom. These factions also point an accusing finger at Israel, given both its behavior toward Jordan and its policy toward the Palestinians, and this assignment of blame is supported by elements in the Jordanian government and establishment. Even Trump's peace initiative (despite the fact that it has not yet been officially presented or made public) is perceived by the Jordanian government – both the King and government officials – as a potential threat to the kingdom's security, and sweeping opposition to Trump's initiative is voiced both on the Jordanian street and in the media.

Closely related issues are Jordan's honor and authority regarding its border with Israel. Demonstrators in Amman demanded that the lands in both enclaves be returned to Jordan. In August, Marwan al-Muasher, the former Jordanian ambassador to Israel and to the United States, former foreign minister, and deputy prime minister, published a lengthy article against the Trump initiative in the daily al-Rai, and called for Jordan to institute a series of measures, including 'the adoption of a resolution by the Jordanian government and parliament not to renew the lease agreement for al-Baqura lands [Naharayim]. No one in the international community will be able to claim that this constitutes a breach of the peace treaty, since Jordan is vested with the full right not to renew this agreement.'

The more vehement the demonstrations became – which were not solely about economic issues – the more intense public pressure targeted King 'Abdullah to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel altogether, with particular focus on the lands used by Israel. Of the 130 members of the Jordanian parliament, 87 signed a petition to terminate the special regime in these areas and restore Jordan's full sovereignty over them.

The current crisis could likely have been prevented, had Israel instituted a wise and forward-looking policy and thereby avoided this surprise political move that jeopardizes the future of Israeli farmers. Now that it has materialized, this crisis will hopefully not constitute a watershed in the bilateral relations. Israel and Jordan have proven in the past that they are capable of overcoming complex developments and resolving disagreements. The profound mutual interests between the countries are numerous – relating to economy, homeland security, water supply, agriculture, and of course regional security.

The peace treaty itself contains a mechanism for consultations, and these should begin immediately, at the outset of this one-year notification period, rather than once again sitting by idly. Both sides are interested in maintaining the peace treaty. Consequently, the threats made by Israeli government ministers to punish Jordan for the step that it took are both illogical and irresponsible. However, as the King will likely not retract his decision, Israel must focus on negotiations and preparations to end Israeli use of these areas - by negotiating an extension of the transition period, accommodating alternative solutions for the Israeli farmers, and determining the rate of compensation to be paid to Israel. This is a serious problem that must be handled through judicious dialogue that is independent of domestic political considerations and – most importantly – takes place far from the spotlight."

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 30.10.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

REPUBLIC DAY CELEBRATIONS: Can Atakli takes aim at the pro-government press in opposition Korkusuz: "Those papers that are not shy about identifying themselves as foes of the Republic dedicated their front-page headlines to celebrating Republic Day because it was about 'making easy money'. Therefore, those who saw their front pages naturally assumed it was a celebration of the Republic, not an ad. Yesterday, the Republic Day ads of government companies that we have never heard of filled the pro-government papers, whereas they left pages of the opposition newspapers bare of course. The stand of the media that has no principles and displays a common enmity towards the Republic and Ataturk is disgusting."

Kazim Gulecyuz warns of a dire future in pro-Islamist opposition Yeni Asya: "The absolutist regime that was put into effect under the name of the Republic has had a one-party and one-man rule since the very beginning. Today's Turkey has also been dragged towards a one-man regime based on that same model. We are not being ruled by well-attended debates but by the imperial orders of a one-man regime. If the current state of affairs were to continue, the 100th anniversary of the republic would be 'celebrated' with diverse and multi-dimensional crisis and issues. Let us not do the Republic wrong."

Kemal Ozturk explains what the Republic really means in pro-government Yeni Safak: "We believe that the Republic means that we claim the heritage of our forebears with all the good deeds as well as the bad, feel proud of its good deeds and learn lessons from its mistakes. For us, the owners of the Republic are not Turks, Kurds, Laz, Circassians, Albanians, and Bosnians, but everyone who feels attached to these lands. For us, the Republic is the dictatorship of the masses, unless there is democracy."

 

ISTANBUL SUMMIT: Sedat Ergin examines the photo of the four leaders who meet in Istanbul over the weekend in center-right Hurriyet: "The important point to underline in this photo is the absence of two important actors. One is the U.S., and in that respect, this points at Washington's loss of international grounds under President Trump. Iran is not in the picture, either. However, both President Erdogan and Russian President Putin have defended Iran in their statements and they seemed to make an effort to appease their partner in Astana."

 

REFUGEES/MIGRANTS: Ibrahim Sirkeci seeks to improve refugee life in leftist opposition Birgun: "One of the quickest ways to ensure that refugees adapt is to lift the obstacles facing their political and economic life. Regulations that leave them in a limbo and drive them towards illegalities, thus leaving them open to exploitation, should be revised. For example, the 5+1 or six-year residency rule that almost all countries apply is not a God-given edict. It is a pretty new rule that is arbitrary and has no objective basis."

 

Iran media watch

 

ARBA'EEN: Iran marks a public holiday today on the occasion of Arba'een, the fortieth day after the death of third Shiite Imam Hussein killed in 680 in Karbala, Iraq. No newspapers are published today. Almost two million Iranians have travelled to Iraq, many on foot, to take part in the mourning ceremonies. Iranian broadcast media say almost 500,000 pilgrims are already returning to Iran. Rallies are also to be held across Iran today, including the capital Tehran. Broadcast media have been reporting on the ceremonies both in the country and in Iraq, as well as some European countries. IRINN carried live reports of the rallies being held in Tehran and Qom, as well as Iraq's Karbala.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Many Persian-speaking users are discussing the story of a girl, who reportedly protested alone against compulsory hijab in Tehran yesterday by removing her headscarf in Enghelab Square. Users are using various hashtags to express their opinion. A U.S.-based Iranian journalist published a 32-second video on her Instagram account yesterday showing a girl taking off the headscarf and holding several balloons, standing on the dome-like structure in the middle of Enghelab Square. The video shows a policeman helping her to descend. Publishing another 56-second video of the woman, another user wrote in Persian: "We will win when onlookers support the girls of Enghelab instead of watching and filming." Yet another user wrote: "It is good that the fight against compulsory hijab is alive in Iran". A few months ago, a number of Iranian women held public protests against compulsory hijab. The bareheaded protesting women usually stand on telecom boxes and wave their headscarves on sticks. In March, at least 30 women who publicly defied hijab rules were arrested in Tehran. Back then, Iranian police and judiciary were widely criticized on social media for using force against these protesters.

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 30.10.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-Questions 'Abbas should ask himself

2-The rush to normalization

3-Weaving the carpet of a Syrian political solution

 

1-Questions 'Abbas should ask himself

 

The Palestinian president is angry at the absentees from this week's Central Council sessions, but he should ask himself why anyone would want to attend such impotent bodies' meetings, says 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in today's Jordanian ad-Dustour

 

Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas has expressed his anger at the absence of the main PLO factions' representatives from the current 30th session of the PLO's Central Council, its second highest body, notes a leading Jordanian commentator. But he should ask himself why anyone would bother to attend such a meeting when only a narrow circle will take the decisions, and when the PLO bodies' previous decisions have not been implemented.

 

REASONS TO BE ANGRY: "President Mahmoud 'Abbas seemed to be angry during the opening session of the 30th PLO Central Council meeting," notes 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Tuesday's Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.

There are many reasons for him to be angry, and most of them anger us as well. But his anger was focused on the representatives of the factions and the independent members who decided to boycott this session. And we are not speaking of Hamas and Islamic Jihad here, as they are not represented in the PLO's institutions anyway. We are speaking of factions that were founding members of the PLO, such as the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and the PDF (Popular Democratic Front).

The president said this boycott was 'shameful.' How can a faction or a PLO member boycott such an important meeting and at such a delicate and dangerous moment: one of unbounded settlement activities and the imminent date for revealing the 'Second Balfour Declaration', or what has come to be known as the [U.S.-sponsored] ' deal of the century'? The president reminded everyone that democracy in Palestine is among 'the best' in the world, and that anyone who has an opinion is free to express it under the Central Council's roof and not outside it.

We too are annoyed by the images of the empty seats at the meeting, which seemed akin to a Fatah convention. In fact, it would have been closer to a version of Fatah's Revolutionary Council had it not been for the presence of a few factions that were small even at the height of their unity and power.

But unlike the president perhaps we were also unhappy at the images of some representatives and delegates to the meeting when no one knows how they became members, who chose them, and for how long they will remain in their post. In fact, had it not been for the fear of creating a leadership 'vacuum', we would have responded with a resounding 'No!' to the question of whether this Council represents the Palestinian people.

The most prominent absence from the Central Council's meeting, Mr. President, is not confined to the PLO factions or those that have remained outside the PLO. Most of the Palestinian people's vanguard, creative elements, and genuine sectors from two successive generations of Palestinians are now outside the PLO's frameworks and institutions. I propose that you scrutinize the names of the new the Central Council members at least and ask those who have promoted and chosen them about the true reasons and motives for their choice. And what is true of the Central Council is even truer of the PNC (Palestine National Council) that met a few months ago.

Be that as it may, why should the factions and those who are characterized by even the least degree of seriousness go to the trouble of taking part in a meeting such as this, when the resolutions adopted by previous meetings have remained mere ink on paper? What guarantees are there that this round of meetings will end up adopting truly 'momentous' and 'exceptional' resolutions? And even if adopted, who can ensure that they would be respected, or that they will find their way to implementation?

Consequently, what is the point of attending this meeting where anyone can say whatever he or she likes, while the very narrow elite that is charge of taking decisions and drafting policies has the total freedom to do whatever they like, including placing the PNC and Central Council's resolutions on the highest of shelves or at the back of the lowest drawers where they will meet with their fate of being abandoned and forgotten?

Is it enough to fire the arrows of criticism at the boycotters, while leaving the attendees' 'spokespersons' to attack them viciously, accuse them of going along with the 'deal of the century', 'back-stabbing,' 'conspiracy,' and every other term in the readymade lexicon of accusatory words? Is this the sort of national dialogue that the Palestinians need in these times of anarchy, bleak horizons, confusion, loss of direction, and frustration that haunts Palestinian circles, while [Palestinian] lands, rights, and gains are ceaselessly and successively draining away with each passing day?

I recall a time when intensive 'workshops' used to precede the PLO's PNC or Central Council meetings, and when the leaders of the various factions used to travel to Aden, Algiers, and elsewhere in an attempt to reach concord and agreement. It is true that the late Yasser Arafat did not abide by or adhere to these resolutions. But leaders such as Georges Habash (PFLP), Nayef Hawatmeh (DFLP), Abu-Ali Mustafa (PFLP), and others felt they were partners. This is not the scene today. Everyone feel that they are members of a 'chorus' that must sing the same tune, or part of an extended audience whose sole function is to applaud.

Where is the partnership in leadership and taking decisions? Where is the rule of institutions in drafting policies and adopting resolutions? Where is the collective leadership? Where are the consultations and preparations? Where is the unified leadership framework?

Is it fair to blame everyone without exception and forget our own [i.e. Abbas's] responsibility? Are they being invited to an extraordinary meeting or a prearranged 'wedding party'? Does it even make sense to expect fateful resolutions without even bothering to coordinate, consult, overcome obstacles, and build accords and understandings?

"Is this how in the Palestinian national movement's 'camels' are being brought to water these days?" asks Rintawi in conclusion.

Ends…

 

2-The rush to normalization

 

The mere occurrence of Israeli visits to Arab countries represents an Israeli gain, especially since they send a message to the Israeli leadership and the Israeli public that they are not isolated, as well as to the world to the effect that if the Arabs are opening up to us [Israelis], then why do you want to use the boycott tools or means of pressure against us? What is happening also makes it clear that many things are taking place behind closed doors. These developments may be a means of 'testing the waters' to see how far Israel is ready to go. And they may be occurring within the context of political requirements that have nothing to do with the Palestinian cause. But what is beyond doubt is that there is very little time left to come up with a clear Arab and Palestinian vision regarding these developments and in a manner that blocks the way before free-of-charge Israeli gains--Ahmad Jamil 'Azm in Jordanian al-Ghad

What is hard to understand or accept is the extent of Arab concessions to Israel. It is as if they were rewarding it for declaring Jerusalem as its eternal capital; for passing the nation-state law that strips the Palestinians in the diaspora and inside Palestine of their national rights; and for its settlement expansion, its blockade on Gaza, and its starvation of the Strip's people. Moreover, the Gulf states have not explained why Israel should return East Jerusalem to the Arabs, or grant the Palestinians their rights, especially that of establishing their independent state – which is the most basic requirement of what the official Arabs describe as a just and comprehensive peace – after Israel has already secured more than it has ever dreamt of, free-of-charge and before offering anything in return... But there are other explanations of this Arab rush towards Israel, foremost among which stem from the demands and slogans raised by the Arab Spring revolutions that threatened the stability of the ruling Arab regimes--Mohammad 'Ismat in Egyptian Ashurouq

 

There are two aspects to Israeli PM Netanyahu's visit to Oman last Friday, maintains a leading Palestinian commentator. In light of Muscat's relations with Iran, the visit is likely to part of its efforts to calm down regional tensions; and Oman may also be trying to mediate between the Palestinians and Israel. But the Arabs and Palestinians are in urgent need of coming up with a clear strategy regarding such normalization. The Arab Gulf states' rush towards normalization with Israel seems to be motivated by the desire to secure Washington's support for undemocratic regimes in the aftermath of the Arab Spring's revolutions, maintains an Egyptian commentator. But these states are deluding themselves, since another wave of this spring is certain to arrive, sooner or later.

 

TWO ASPECTS: "There are at least two aspects to the Israeli PM's visit to the Omani capital Muscat last Friday October 26th," writes Ahmad Jamil 'Azm in Tuesday's Jordanian daily al-Ghad.

The first has to do with Iran, and the second has to do with the Palestinians. But, naturally, it is not possible to separate the two aspects and their significance for the future of the Arab/Israeli conflict and the Palestinian cause.

- The Iranian issue highlights the special nature of the Iranian/Omani relationship. There is a calm and known alliance between Tehran and Muscat that began in the days of the Shah of Iran and did not end under the Islamic Republic regime since the 1980s. The Sultanate adopted a different position towards the Iraq/Iran war in the 1980s, preferring to remain neutral. Among other reasons, this was because of the geopolitical factor – namely, Iran's proximity to it.

But the Omani role has seemed clearer since 2013 when it emerged that Muscat had played a role in reaching the nuclear agreement between the U.S. and the West and Iran that upset some other Arab Gulf states. The Sultanate also sought to initiate a process that leads to a resolution of the conflict over the Emirati islands that Iran has been occupying since the 1970s.

In light of this, it is difficult to view Netanyahu's visit as part of the U.S./Israeli efforts to establish 'an Arab/Israeli alliance' against Iran. On the contrary; the visit may have occurred within the traditional context of Omani policy that seeks to calm the situation down in a manner that includes normalizing Iran's relations with the region and the world. Moreover, the visit takes on additional importance against the background of the attempt to agree on the map of understandings and relations regarding Iran's presence in Syria and Israel's demands in this regard.

- The second aspect naturally has to do with the Palestinian cause. The visit comes less than a year after U.S. President Donald Trump's decision on Jerusalem, and against the background of the faltering political process and the severing of U.S./Palestinian political contacts. It is also taking place parallel to Israeli sporting visits to Qatar and the UAE. And it comes two days after Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas's visit to Muscat.

The official Palestinian and Arab positions are based on the assumption that the [2002/2007] Arab Peace Initiative calls for a resolution of the Palestinian issue before any normalization of Arab relations with Israel. They are also based on concern and opposition to Israel's attempts to use the Iranian card so as to promote the notion of 'normalization before a solution.' For the Israelis would then have achieved their goal of being accepted regionally and would therefore offer nothing on the Palestinian issue in return.

But the Palestinians are not adopting a clear position against such visits – not only against the visit to Oman. In this, the PLO's leadership position is almost the same as Hamas's for two reasons: As far as the PLO's leadership is concerned, the Palestinian/Israeli peace agreements have bypassed the 'taboo' on relations with Israel. On the other hand, fear of the economic and political repercussion of any sharp hostile position on such issues may be part of the Palestinians' calculations.

For example, Hamas's leader in Gaza Yahiya as-Sinwar, has made demands and issued threats should Israel fail to facilitate the arrival of a monthly grant of $15 million to Gaza, without even considering the implicit implications of the Qatari/Israeli understandings in this regard. In other words, there are details and 'necessities' (from this perspective) that allow for breaking the 'taboos' and making room for 'realism' when it comes to Arab/Israeli contacts.

There is also a third aspect, namely the fact that the Palestinians do not unequivocally reject Arab mediation with Israel. This is clear, for example, in the Egyptian and Qatari mediation between Hamas and the Israelis. Nor does this conflict with the official Palestinian demand for an international/Arab mechanism to sponsor the negotiations – without this in any way meaning that the Palestinians accept or are happy at the normalization of Arab/Israeli relations, especially not before the establishment of the Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.

The mere occurrence of Israeli visits to Arab countries represents an Israeli gain, especially since they send a message to the Israeli leadership and the Israeli public that they are not isolated, as well as to the world to the effect that if the Arabs are opening up to us [Israelis], then why do you want to use the boycott tools or means of pressure against us? What is happening also makes it clear that many things are taking place behind closed doors. These developments may be a means of 'testing the waters' to see how far Israel is ready to go. And they may be occurring within the context of political requirements that have nothing to do with the Palestinian cause.

"But what is beyond doubt is that there is very little time left to come up with a clear Arab and Palestinian vision regarding these developments and in a manner that blocks the way before free-of-charge Israeli gains," concludes 'Azm.

End…

 

NOT BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: "The normalization of Israeli/Gulf relations is no longer taking place inside dark basements or behind closed doors as it did in the past," writes Mohammad 'Ismat in Tuesday's left-of-center Egyptian daily Ashurouq.

Nor is it confined to these countries second-tier figures or covert relations having to do with the exchange of intelligence, or political, economic, and security discussions. Nor, for that matter, are such meetings intended to test the Arab peoples' reactions by announcing the mutual visits between Gulf and Zionist officials. It seems that the time has come for playing openly, so that the region can prepare for the next major step, which is that of the official recognition of Israel and exchanging diplomatic representation with it.

The Arab Peace Initiative launched by the late Saudi monarch King 'Abdullah bin 'Abdelaziz at the 2002 Beirut Arab summit represented a qualitative turning-point in the Gulf states' relations with Israel. True, the initiative made normalization conditional on Israel's withdrawal to the June 5th 1967 borders, in return for full recognition and the establishment of trade and economic relations – even though it was said at the time that the initiative's true aim was to alleviate U.S. pressures on the Kingdom after the 9/11 attacks. But this initiative – that Israel has rejected by the way – flung the doors open to raising the level of unpublicized trade relations between the Gulf and Israel.

This continued until Israel established public trade offices in many Gulf capitals, a step that was crowned by many visits by Israeli officials to Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman. It also coincided with announcement of a visit to Israel by Saudi General Anwar Eshki, who is close to the Saudi royal family. And this went on until we arrived at the moment when Israeli PM Netanyahu paid an official visit to the Sultanate of Oman; a step that took everyone by surprise and raised many questions regarding the visit's reasons and its potential results.

It is impossible to understand these developments without taking the so-called 'deal of the century' into consideration, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump's demand to establish a so-called 'Arab NATO' that includes the Gulf states, together with Egypt, Jordan and Israel, to confront what is referred to as 'terrorism' and the 'Shiite threat' from Iran.

But what is hard to understand or accept is the extent of Arab concessions to Israel. It is as if they were rewarding it for declaring Jerusalem as its eternal capital; for passing the nation-state law that strips the Palestinians in the diaspora and inside Palestine of their national rights; and for its settlement expansion, its blockade on Gaza, and its starvation of the Strip's people. Moreover, the Gulf states have not explained why Israel should return East Jerusalem to the Arabs, or grant the Palestinians their rights, especially that of establishing their independent state – which is the most basic requirement of what the official Arabs describe as a just and comprehensive peace – after Israel has already secured more than it has ever dreamt of, free-of-charge and before offering anything in return.

There may be violent American pressures on the Arab governments to normalize relations with Israel under the delusional pretext of confronting the threat posed by Iran and terrorism. But there are other explanations of this Arab rush towards Israel, foremost among which stem from the demands and slogans raised by the Arab Spring revolutions that threatened the stability of the ruling Arab regimes. This has driven these regimes towards Israel in an attempt to secure the American backing they need in order to tighten their control over their peoples' active search of freedom and social justice. They need such backing so as to ensure that the nondemocratic conditions in the Arab world would remain as they are!

But what the Arab governments are ignoring is that the rush towards Israel will have no effect other than buying them time until a new Arab Spring arrives. They are ignoring the fact that, no matter how intense the disagreements and disputes with Iran may get, they will be no more than a drop in the ocean of the Zionist threat to the Arab nation. And they are ignoring the fact that extremism and terrorism cannot be dealt with via security solutions alone but by spreading a climate of freedom and democratic practice.

"All of the Arab governments' strategies in dealing with our issues are doomed to failure. Even worse, they carry within their folds all the factors that will inevitably lead to large-scale social and political explosions that we are certain to witness sooner or later," concludes 'Ismat.

Ends…

 

3-Weaving the carpet of a Syrian political solution

 

The area East of the Euphrates, where the oil and gas reserves are located, is Syrian land. It must return to the Syrian state's sovereignty like the other cities and areas. Moreover, these resources remain fundamental for financing the reconstruction process or at least a major part of it, reducing the financial burdens on both the Syrian government and people in light of the refusal of the U.S. and its Arab allies that receive their orders from it to provide such financing, except on the basis of impossible preconditions. A four-way [Istanbul] summit in which the internationally recognized Syrian government does not take part cannot be successful in restoring security and stability to Syria and its people. Moreover, a constitutional committee that is not formed in agreement with this government will find it difficult to come up with the required reforms; or so we believe --'Abdelbari 'Atwan on pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com

Weaving the carpet of a Syrian political solution will not be easy. It is not enough to achieve cohabitation between the Sochi and Geneva tracks. The Syrian regime did not offer concessions when it was weak, so why should we expect it to offer any concessions after the changes in its favor on the ground? And what about the position of Iran, which is preparing for an extraordinary round of U.S. pressures? Moreover, can Putin secure enough from Iran to justify including the American and European threads in the solution's carpet? We are now facing an extremely complicated crisis with domestic, regional, and international dimensions. The solution calls for pressure, patience, arranging the deck of cards, and reaching serious understandings. And it almost needs a miracle--Ghassan Charbel in pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat

 

Saturday's four-way Turkish/Russian/French/German Istanbul summit issued a communiqué with a contradictory call for both eradicating the terrorist groups and a permanent ceasefire in Idlib, notes the editor-in-chief of an online pan-Arab daily. It also spoke of forming a committee charged with drafting a Syrian constitution, something that Damascus, which was not invited to the summit, views as a sovereign matter. A political solution in Syria is akin to a multi-threaded carpet that requires the cooperation of various conflicting parties, argues the Lebanese editor-in-chief of a Saudi daily. Even though Russia represents the main thread, the U.S., the EU, Iran, Turkey, and Israel, as well as the Arab world must all be included in weaving it; but reconciling their different interests will all but require a miracle.

 

INCOMPLETE ISTANBUL: "We do not know how Saturday's four-way Istanbul summit between the leaders of Russia, France, Britain and Turkey will contribute to a political solution for the Syrian crisis, reduce the growing tension, and prepare the climate for the refugees' return," writes Editor-in-Chief 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.

We also do not know how the summit will lead to establishing a committee charged with drafting a constitution before the end of the year without the participation of two main parties: Syria, which is the country for which a constitution is supposed to be drafted, and Iran, the main partner in the Astana track that played a major role in paving the way for the current military achievements on the ground. In addition, the Arab members of the 'Small Group on Syria' – which includes seven countries, three of which are Arab, namely, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia – were also excluded.

True, the summit's final communiqué stressed the unity of Syrian territories, backed a political solution, stressed the need to destroy all terrorist groups and organizations such as ISIS and the Tahrir ash-Sham Organization (the former Nusra Front) and rejected all separatist agendas. But this entire position is marred by a major contradiction in the text that calls for a permanent ceasefire in Idlib without offering any explanation as to how that is to be achieved.

The aforementioned two groups have refused to lay down their arms, abide by the Russian/Turkish agreement to establish a 20 kilometers-deep buffer zone, or hand over their heavy weaponry. So, does this mean that the status quo in Idlib – which contains four million citizens and over 100,000 armed elements – will remain the same? Or does this paragraph in the final communiqué mean that a green light has been given to liquidate the two groups? Moreover, who will carry out this mission and when will they do so?

The other point has to do with the formation of a constitutional committee before the end of this year. The committee's main mission will be to draft a new Syrian constitution that will provide the bases for constitutional reforms as well as the presidential and parliamentary elections that are supposed to take place by the year 2020 at the latest.

This may be the first time in history in which a constitution is drafted for a sovereign state such as Syria, whose army has won the fight on the ground. This is why we were not surprised to hear from resigned UN Syria Envoy, Staffan de Mistura that Syrian Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Mr. Walid al-Mu'allem has refused the very notion of forming such a committee. After a quick visit to Damascus, de Mistura said that Mr. Mu'allem had stressed that the formation of a constitutional committee is a sovereign issue; and he refused any role for the UN in the formation or designation of the names of the members of the abovementioned constitutional committee at the same time.

The Kremlin's spokesman, Mr. Dmitry Peskov, said that Moscow would inform Damascus of the results of the four-way summit in Istanbul. But he did not explain how this would be done. For example, will it be done via a Russian envoy to the Syrian capital, who may be Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov? Or will it be done by inviting Mr. Mu'allem, 'the doyen of Syrian diplomacy,' to the Russian capital?

The Syrian government's opposition and suspicion of this constitutional committee are justified especially since the draft constitution that a Russian delegation distributed to the delegations taking part in one of the rounds of the Astana conference more than a year ago spoke of partitioning Syria into federal units along sectarian and ethnic lines, marginalizing the central authority, bestowing absolute powers on the regional parliaments, and reducing the central authorities' military capabilities.

The bombing by Turkish warplanes of positions belonging to the largely Kurdish SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) East of the Euphrates two days ago in tandem with an unexpected ISIS offensive that succeeded in recapturing many of the areas that the SDF had previously taken, gives the impression of secret 'understandings' between Russia and Turkey. We do not know if the Syrian authorities have been informed of the details of these 'understandings.' After all, giving priority to the area East of the Euphrates again means that the Idlib ceasefire will remain in its present state, transforming it into a semi-permanent agreement – or so many observers believe.

The area East of the Euphrates, where the oil and gas reserves are located, is Syrian land. It must return to the Syrian state's sovereignty like the other cities and areas. Moreover, these resources remain fundamental for financing the reconstruction process or at least a major part of it, reducing the financial burdens on both the Syrian government and people in light of the refusal of the U.S. and its Arab allies that receive their orders from it to provide such financing, except on the basis of impossible preconditions.

A four-way summit in which the internationally recognized Syrian government does not take part cannot be successful in restoring security and stability to Syria and its people. Moreover, a constitutional committee that is not formed in agreement with this government will find it difficult to come up with the required reforms; or so we believe. The only thing we can do is to wait for to see the Syrian leadership's attitude and for the clarifications that the Russian envoy to Damascus will bring.

"For the moment, we have no other option," concludes 'Atwan.

End…

 

REQUIRING A MIRACLE: "Weaving the carpet of a political solution for Syria calls for exhausting and creative efforts that will need a miracle if they are to succeed," writes Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Charbel in the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

They will require hard negotiations, enormous pressures, and tough compromises. The complex intermeshing of conflicting roles and the old and new obstacles demonstrate that we are dealing with the most complicated crises that the world has faced in recent times.

The situation would have definitely been different had one side been able to declare its victory via a knockout blow and its ability to impose a solution. And if it is possible to identify the Russian side as the main actor on this complicated stage, it is not the sole actor. Russia has partners on the ground whose interests it has to take into account. Moreover, the Syrian issue is just one of the many pending files in its relations with the West, and especially with the U.S.

Syria is an important stage in the coup that Vladimir Putin has led against the world's only superpower. But it would be hasty to believe that the Kremlin is interested in achieving full victory in Syria even if that leads to losing its relations with Israel, Turkey, and the West. Putin's calculations are more complicated than to be restricted to the Syrian stage.

There is no doubt that the Russian thread will be the most prominent in the solution's carpet. Moscow is an obligatory gateway to any permanent solution in Syria, and U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton knows this, as does UN Syrian Envoy Staffan de Mistura, who is preparing to leave the stage. But the Russian thread is not enough to weave a carpet. Moscow will not take the burden of reconstructing Syria upon itself; nor is it able to do so. Moreover, it is difficult to believe that the Western states will want to take part in Syria's reconstruction if their role is confined to polishing the Russian victory and merely normalizing the situation in a Syria that lives under Moscow's umbrella, without restraining the influence of Iran, which has participated in preventing the fall of the Syrian regime via its militias.

The Russian thread is inevitable, but so is the American thread. And the U.S. is militarily present in Eastern Syria. It recently chose to escalate its pressures to force the Iranian militias to withdraw from Syria. Furthermore, and starting from the first week of November, American pressures will enter a new phase of escalation when Washington will move towards imposing 'the harshest possible sanctions' on Tehran, which is no longer hiding the difficulties facing its economy.

The carpet of a political solution in Syria also requires a European, Turkish, Iranian, Arab, and Israeli thread – at least when it comes to security arrangements.

It is in the context of the journey in search for the carpet's threads that we can place the four-way Istanbul summit that included the heads of Russia, France, and Germany, as well as the host country's president. The summit called for the establishment of a committee for drafting the Syrian constitution, provided that it meets by the end of the year. And the participants stressed the need to prepare Syria's various parts for a safe and voluntary return of refugees, and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to this country, the need for a permanent ceasefire, and the need to continue fighting the extremists.

There is no doubt that the mere fact that the summit was held has exposed the need for the presence of partners, albeit to various degrees. Putin needs Europe's participation to provide an umbrella for the solution because Europe can serve as a gateway for the U.S. to join this umbrella. Turkey also needs European partners to strengthen its role and achieve some balance with the Iranian role on the one hand, and the Russian role on the other. And France and Germany also want to participate so as to give the impression that Europe has not lost its role because Britain decided to leave the EU and because Italy and other countries are threatening to rebel against the EU's spirit and constraints.

But a brief meeting in Istanbul is not enough to resolve the differences between the various parties' calculations. The post summit press conference exposed these differences: Angela Merkel stressed that there can be no military solution for the Syrian crisis. She stressed that, 'at the end of this political process, free elections must be held in which all Syrians take part, including those living outside the country.' And President Emmanuel Macron hastened to support the German Chancellor and urged Russia to 'exert very clear pressure on the Syrian regime.' Putin emphasized the fight against terrorism and expressed his hope that Turkey would soon complete the establishment of a de-militarized zone in Idlib. And for his part, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that it is up to 'the Syrian people inside and outside Syria' to decide President Bashar al-Assad's fate, while at the same time stressing the need to fight the 'terrorists' in Northern Syria –i.e. the Kurdish organizations.

The Istanbul summit's result should be present at the table of the Small Group on Syria's meeting in London on Monday. This group includes the U.S., France, the UK, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt; and it is only natural to assume that de Mistura will also be there. Also present will be the need to arrange the situation so as to ensure coexistence between the various necessary threads at other venues including the expected summit between Putin and Donald Trump on the margins of France's World War I celebrations. And the Syrian dossier is likely to occupy a major position in light of the results of Bolton's visit to Moscow. After all, the Russian/U.S. dialogue is ongoing and has been confirmed by Trump's invitation to Putin to visit Washington, even if the Chinese dimension seems to lie at the background of that invitation. And this same dossier will be present when de Mistura presents his final report to the UN Security Council on November 19th regarding the results of his effort to reach a political solution and his failure to convince Damascus to facilitate the establishment of the committee charged with drafting the constitution.

Weaving the carpet of a Syrian political solution will not be easy. It is not enough to achieve cohabitation between the Sochi and Geneva tracks. The Syrian regime did not offer concessions when it was weak; so why should we expect it to offer any concessions after the changes in its favor on the ground? And what about the position of Iran, which is preparing for an extraordinary round of U.S. pressures? Moreover, can Putin secure enough from Iran to justify including the American and European threads in the solution's carpet?

We are now facing an extremely complicated crisis with domestic, regional, and international dimensions. The solution calls for pressure, patience, arranging the deck of cards, and reaching serious understandings.

"And it almost needs a miracle," concludes Charbel.

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 29.10.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

The Iran connection

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas on Sunday again vowed to oppose any peace proposal by President Trump as PLO officials met to consider their next moves. Speaking at the opening of a meeting of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's central council, 'Abbas said Palestinians were facing perhaps the "most dangerous stage" in their history, highlighting a series of U.S. measures including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. 'Abbas has boycotted the White House since that December decision. The U.S. is still expected to release a peace plan in the coming months. 'Abbas compared the expected Trump proposal to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which saw the British government commit to the creation of a state for Jews in historic Palestine. "If the Balfour Declaration passed, this deal will not pass," he pledged. The Palestinian leader accused his Hamas rivals of serving U.S. interests by refusing to relinquish control of the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, three people killed in an IDF strike in Gaza on Sunday were young teens, the Hamas-run health ministry said. The IDF said it carried out an airstrike targeting three Palestinians who were attempting to damage the fence surrounding the Strip. The army added that the suspects were "apparently in the process of planting an explosive device" at the Southern part of the coastal enclave. According to the IDF, some 16,000 Palestinians gathered at five locations along the border on Friday, burning tires and throwing rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops, who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire. Later, 34 rockets were fired at Israel overnight and into Saturday morning, 13 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Two of the rockets fell in Gaza and the rest were said to have landed in open areas. In response to the rocket fire, Israeli aircraft attacked 95 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.

Israeli security officials believe that the fighting on Friday and Saturday, which was led by the Islamic Jihad under orders from Iran, is tied to a power struggle between Islamic Jihad and Hamas over credit for the protests along the border fence as well as for gains from an anticipated agreement with Israel. Iranian involvement is connected to the fight over leadership of the weekly protests. Iran wants Gaza's residents to see it as the country that stood by them in recent months and is responsible for the improvement in their situation. Tehran wishes to prevent Egypt, Qatar, and the UN – who have been mediating between Israel and Hamas – from receiving any credit. To this end, Iran is paying about $100 million a year to organizations in Gaza and families of Palestinians killed and wounded in the protests.

Israeli residents from the Southern border communities blocked the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza Monday morning. The group, protesting the continuous rocket fire and security situation in the South, were joined by activists from the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu, and managed to block dozens of trucks carrying supplies from entering the coastal enclave. 

President 'Abbas received a special emissary Sunday in Ramallah from Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said, a few days after Prime Minister Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Oman. A report by the official Palestinian news agency said that the Omani official gave 'Abbas a personal letter from Qaboos. The sultan thanked 'Abbas for his visit to Oman last week and stressed the importance of ties between Oman and the PA. Ramallah took pains not to criticize Netanyahu's visit to Oman, but the Palestinian political world did not like the visit and the timing. A Palestinian official close to 'Abbas told Haaretz that it cannot be ruled out that the Omani emissary brought calming messages, mainly about the normalization of ties with Israel. The PA expects all Arab countries to commit to the formula set in the Arab peace plan, whereby normalization with Israel would occur only in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. In a sign of continued warming ties with the Arab world, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz will head to Oman to push for a regional rail line that will link Haifa with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Katz is expected to present the plan when he addresses a regional transportation conference, called the IRU World Congress, which will convene is Muscat from November 6th to 8th. According to his office, "This is the first time an Israeli Minister has been formally invited to participate in an international conference in Oman."

American military officials are concerned over Israel's campaign against Iran in Syria, which has won the encouragement of the White House, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. "It is a growing concern for us," a senior military official told the Journal. The report says that U.S. military officials fear that if Iran would believe the United States is behind some of the strikes in Syria, or that the United States is feeding Israel intelligence for the strikes, it could prompt attacks by Iran-backed militias on American troops in the region. The officials expressed concern particularly about more than 5,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.

Elsewhere, the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday began with a minute of silence to honor the 11 Jewish worshipers killed in an anti-Semitic shooting attack a day earlier at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. "It is hard to overstate the horror of a murder of Jews gathered in a synagogue on Shabbat, who were murdered just because they were Jews," Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting. Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau on Sunday condemned the killing but could not bring himself to call the house of worship a synagogue, instead labeling it "a place of clear Jewish character." The ultra-Orthodox Lau is an avowed foe of the more liberal streams of Judaism and was last year, along with Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, instrumental in pushing the government to backtrack on the deal for an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall. "I will say one simple thing: Any murder of a Jew in any corner of the world, because they are Jewish, is unforgivable, it's a crime that cannot, under any circumstances, be ignored," Lau told Makor Rishon. Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs drew a parallel on Sunday evening between the gunman in Pittsburgh and Hamas militants who target Israel with rockets. Addressing a memorial vigil sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Naftali Bennett said: "From Sderot to Pittsburgh, the hand that fires missiles is the same hand that shoots worshippers. We will fight against the hatred of Jews, and anti-Semitism wherever it raises its head. And we will prevail

Finally, Sagi Muki of Israel won a gold medal on Sunday at the International Judo Federation's Grand Slam competition in Abu Dhabi. For the first time, the Israeli national anthem, "Hatikva" was played in Abu Dhabi as the Israeli judoka received the medal. Muki received the medal in the presence of Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who attended the competition despite the fact that Israel has no diplomatic relations with the UAE. In 2017, Israeli judoka Tal Flicker won gold medal at the Grand Slam. No Israeli flag was flown at the podium in 2017, after the hosts forbade any representation of the Israeli team's nationality, something that they claimed was done for their own safety. Israelis competed under similar conditions during the same event held in 2015 in Abu Dhabi.

 

 

KOCHAVI NEEDS EYES IN THE BACK OF HIS HEAD: Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth states that the new chief of staff Aviv Kochavi knows how to deal with external enemies – but the government will use him as a scapegoat, and social network bullies will vilify him as a soft leftist. His problem is the crooks from within.

"There are more convenient roles in the civil service, but aside from the prime minister, there is no role more responsible and demanding than that of the chief of staff. Millions of Israelis look up to him: in their eyes he embodies security, deterrence, and, just as importantly, the expectation to see the fighters, their kin, return home safely.

Four generals competed for the job. All four are good. The most senior of them was Aviv Kochavi. Not only because of the many roles that he has filled in the IDF, but because of the way he succeeded in each of them. Lieberman and Netanyahu chose correctly. The grating sounds that accompanied the announcement of the decision came from the ego games rife at the top of the government, but they do not overshadow the choice itself. They even have a silver lining: Kochavi will begin his tenure as the 22nd chief of staff not owing his appointment to anyone. Independence is power. It releases the chief of staff from personal and political constraints. Gadi Eizenkot solidified his position as one of the most powerful and esteemed chiefs of staff in the history of the IDF because he stood, and is still standing, on his own two feet. Kochavi enjoys similar opening circumstances.

I have been following Kochavi's work since the early 1990s, when he commanded the 101st Paratroopers Regiment, at the edge of the Eastern sector in Lebanon. Regardless of him, the regiment was the station I made sure to reach every time I went to Lebanon. I found a brave, intelligent, sober combat commander, who saw far beyond his battalion's sector. I met him again as commander of the Paratroopers Brigade, in the fight against terror in the West Bank, before and during Operation Defensive Shield. He led the breach of walls from house to house, the method that the IDF used to regain control of the Balata refugee camp. Under his command the Nablus Casbah was reoccupied.

There are commanders in the army who advance in the ranks but remain forever at the level of Regiment or Brigade commander. Raful Eitan was like that. Kochavi, on the other hand, grew in stature with every role he filled. That was the case in Military Intelligence, as in the Northern Command and as deputy chief of staff.

The chief of staff's job is to prepare the army for war. His additional job is to prevent war. In the present reality, in which Israel has nothing to gain from a head-on collision with its enemies, this aspect is no less important.

Eizenkot is leaving Kochavi with an army that is in good shape and good spirits, well equipped, rich in budgets. Military Intelligence estimates that the likelihood of war initiated by Iran or its proxies is low. There is, however, a pretty high likelihood of war developing in the North against Hezbollah in Lebanon and the pro-Iranian militias in Syria, and in Gaza as well, with Hamas. Iran has not given up on turning Syria into a launch pad for its campaign against Israel. It has not given up on its nuclear ambitions either. Gaza is far from calming down. Something will happen on that front even before Kochavi begins his tenure, on December 31.

The government that Kochavi will work under is different from previous ones. The belligerent rhetoric of its ministers is breaking records – including the rhetoric of the prime minister and the defense minister. The military moves that the political echelon actually approves, however, are much more cautious, much more sober. Gaza is a prime example: The gap between rhetoric and action requires explanation, and the explanation the politicians have found is the IDF – the chief of staff is to blame. Because of him Gaza is hungry. Because of him Gaza is boiling; that is why it is spilling over on the fence. This false view will intensify in the coming months, because of elections. Government ministers will need scapegoats to cover up their failures and the IDF is one of them. Every cynical lie will be inflated and rolled through the social networks and the radio and television talk shows. This ugly wave is already gnawing at the margins of the IDF today. The chief of staff and the generals are presented again and again as closet leftists. The IDF Spokesperson's statements are presented as Fake News. The soldiers on the ground read the talkbacks, and do not know who to believe.

Last week, a terrorist stabbed an IDF soldier in Hebron. The soldiers responded as required: They shot the stabber. The soldier was lightly wounded, and the terrorist was killed. One of the internet bullies published some information he had ostensibly heard from a source in the military attorney's office that the chief of staff and military attorney general had ordered that the soldier be indicted 'like Eleor Azaria'. The network thug has tens of thousands of followers; within minutes he received hundreds of Likes.

And so on and so forth. Kochavi will discover, as Eizenkot discovered, that he has tools to deal with the external enemy. The problem is dealing with the crooks from within."

Ends…

 

A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO REMOVE IRAN FROM SYRIA: Eyal Zisser in Israel Hayom argues that the new chief of staff must attack not only the parasite (Iran), but also the host, Bashar al-Assad, to whom it should be made clear that the Iranian entrenchment on his soil comes with a price.

"The decision to prevent Iran from establishing itself in Syria requires resolve, daring, intelligence and operational capabilities, and contemporaneously caution not to drag the region into a general confrontation. But it seems that this campaign has exhausted itself. True, Israeli spokesmen continue to claim that Israeli freedom of action has not been harmed, and that Israel continues to act against Iranian targets on Syrian soil. Defense Minister Lieberman said last week that Israel had not stopped attacking Syria, but that the attacks had not been reported in the media. And Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would do everything needed to prevent Iran from establishing itself in Syria.

But on the ground, a gap is emerging between Israeli rhetoric and reality. Instead of reports of air force strikes we are getting reports of the Russians completing deployment of S-300 batteries throughout Syria. Moreover, Mustafa Mughniyeh, the son of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah chief of staff who was assassinated in 2008, is setting up the organization's infrastructures along the Israeli border in the Golan Heights, as a continuation of the actions of his brother, Jihad, who was assassinated by Israel in December 2014 near Quneitra.

The window of opportunity that opened for Israel to operate in Syria would have closed even without the downing of the Russian plane a month ago. After all, Russia wishes to ensure peace and stability in Syria, so that its investments will bear fruit. Besides, Russia does not perceive Iran as a threat, and in any case does not see its presence in Syria as a Russian problem, as Putin clearly explained just recently.

But even without the Russian indifference, it is hard to imagine that the air strikes would have been sufficient to remove the Iranians. Such attacks can perhaps prevent the Iranians taking hold of one site or another, and possibly even the deployment of combat squadrons or advanced weapons systems (which are easy to identify). But all this is a drop in the sea compared to the presence of tens of thousands of Shiite militia fighters brought by Iran to Syria, and of thousands of Iranian fighters and Hezbollah fighters. The Israeli-Iranian confrontation in Syria last May did not end with great success, for it marked clear red lines that Israel adheres to, including not killing Iranian soldiers, which limits the scope of action.

In light of this reality, Israel must think outside the box and recalculate its direction. A possible course of action is to revert to past policy, which was successfully implemented against the PLO in Jordan in the early 1970s: exacting a price not only from the guest (Iran) but also from the host, which in our case is Bashar al-Assad.

Israel does not 'count' Bashar, and mistakenly believes that he is a puppet in the hands of the Iranians and the Russians. Meanwhile Bashar is strengthening his position. It is possible that if he understands, along with his Russian patrons, that the Iranian presence on his land carries a price tag – he will act to restrict it. Israel missed such an opportunity by allowing Assad to return to Southern Syria for nothing, bringing with him and under his patronage the Iranians and Hezbollah as well. It is not too late; the change of course must be made cautiously and sensitively so as not to slide to a general confrontation. There is no time more apt than now, with a new tenant in the chief of staff's office."

Ends…

 

JIHAD TRYING TO CIRCUMVENT HAMAS: Tal Lev-Ram in Maariv claims the Cabinet will have to decide whether the time has come to change course, get creative, and authorize direct hits of Islamic Jihad activists, who are trying to drag Israel into war.

"The appointment of Ziad Nakhala as new commander of Islamic Jihad, replacing Ramadan Salah about a month ago after the latter suffered a stroke, signaled a change of direction – from the headquarters of the terrorist organization in Damascus to the commanders on the ground in Gaza. Perhaps this stems from the Iranian Quds Force's desire, as the army claims, to entangle Israel in a war in Gaza, which will make it easier for the Iranians to establish themselves militarily in Syria, or from the wish for a more hawkish line than Hamas in the struggle against Israel.

Either way, the signs indicating these developments were abundantly clear in the declarations of the leaders, in the discourse on Gaza among commanders in Damascus and in the events that took place on the ground. On October 6, Nakhala attacked Abu Mazin regarding Gaza, and sent a message to Israel: 'The Palestinian organizations have the ability to turn the communities of the Gaza envelope into a place where it is impossible to live. For our people, a martyr's death is life and surrender is death.'

This last weekend, Islamic Jihad clearly moved further than Hamas, when, under the auspices of the violent events on the fence; it began a round of escalation and explained its actions as retaliation for the five Palestinian fatalities in Gaza last Friday. The IDF is stressing the connection between the group and the Iranian Quds Force and the desire to entangle Israel in a confrontation in Gaza as the most significant factors. This change in Islamic Jihad's policy further exemplifies the dangers of continuing the violent confrontations on the fence. The more they continue the more they drag Israel closer to a war it does not want.

The IDF opted this time as well for aerial attacks against Hamas targets, in response to rocket attacks on Israel. More than 80 targets in 12 different areas were hit, damaging Hamas' infrastructure and capabilities, but without targeting terrorists and senior members of Hamas or other organizations, in order not to create further escalation in the South. Such attacks cannot be underrated. Over time they cause damage to Hamas capabilities, but at this stage they are not instigating a change in Hamas policy regarding the continuation of its struggle to lift the siege, which includes a willingness to risk a military confrontation in Gaza.

Israel attacked Hamas targets even though it was not the one who fired, so that Hamas apply pressure on Islamic Jihad and stop it from operating in the future. The effectiveness of this action is questionable; it may have short-term impact, but in the longer term it is doubtful whether this will suffice. At the moment it seems that politically and militarily Israel is at an impasse. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the defense establishment have placed preventing Iran from establishing itself in Syria as the top priority, much more important than Gaza. The restrained Israeli policy in Gaza is often explained by our senior officials as stemming from this consideration. Precisely because of this factor, the recent developments in the Gaza Strip are of great concern.

The Cabinet will have to decide whether it is time to change course and directly hit Islamic Jihad operatives, in targeted assassinations or by bombing manned HQs, in response to the continued rocket fire, or to continue with the same method of action – only harming Hamas. At this stage, it is too early to know what the decisions will be; it is too early to sum up the period yet awaiting us. At this stage, at least, Israel is behaving in exactly the same way. Anyone looking for creativity, in action or thought – should look elsewhere.

To a certain extent, there is one clear line connecting the days before Protective Edge to the past seven months in the Gaza Strip: The limited ability of Israeli intelligence to analyze the intentions of the enemy in the Strip. The latest move in the Strip illustrates just how far Hamas is willing to go walking the tightrope. It is vacillating between political achievements and a military operation."

Ends…

 

JIHAD FOILING LULL ON ORDERS FROM IRAN: Shimrit Meir in Yedioth Ahronoth writes that the Gaza conundrum seems unsolvable. The IDF and government cannot come up with answers and the Iranians, who hold the initiative, want to cash in on their long-standing financial investment in the military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

"This last weekend, Islamic Jihad joined the endless list of obstacles to an arrangement that will prevent war in Gaza. Jihad, a veteran organization which recently elected a new leader, is determined to put itself and the Iranians on the map.

Ziad al-Nakhala, the new secretary-general of the organization, who was elected following the coma that Ramadan Salah fell into, is not a new face. In fact, he is a very old face. 65 years old, first incarcerated in an Israeli prison in 1971, and with a lifetime of military struggle against Israel behind him. From the establishment of the al-Quds Force, the military wing of Jihad, to teaching of Hebrew to Hezbollah intelligence officers. Nakhala was the Iranian's candidate for the post, and as such he did not leave his rivals much of a chance: Islamic Jihad is an Iranian organization no less than it is a Palestinian organization. Nakhala lives on the Beirut-Damascus axis, and from there the woes of Gaza's residents seem less urgent than the interests of the Revolutionary Guards. If he re-enters the list of Israeli assassination targets, it will not be the first time.

Nakhala makes sure to maintain good relations with his colleagues in the other Palestinian organizations, including Hamas, where they apparently do not like the extra independence he allowed himself when he decided to fire dozens of missiles at the communities of the Gaza envelope, just when Gaza's residents were beginning to enjoy the first significant achievement of the negotiations on an arrangement: The entry of Qatari diesel fuel that enables eight hours of electricity per day instead of four. Imagine life with four hours of electricity a day, when every action is calculated and there are large families to feed, in order to understand the depth of despair in Gaza.

Nakhala did not act on his own. The claim that Islamic Jihad is trying to disrupt the efforts to attain an arrangement on Iranian orders is not a spin. The Iranians have an interest in keeping Israel close to the fence in Gaza, and keeping its political and security leadership busy with futile rounds of violence in the Strip, instead of turning their attention and energy to the Iranian military buildup in Syria. As long as they estimate that Egyptian chances of bringing the arrangement efforts to the finishing line are slim, they allow them to go on. But when something begins to move between Israel and Hamas, they activate Islamic Jihad.

You do not have to be a strategic genius to surmise that this is not the last event. Hamas has indeed taken a break from the balloons, perhaps in exchange for the diesel fuel, but in the coming days there is still a significant potential for eruption. Abu Mazin refuses to let go, despite all the pressure on him, and wants to make more cuts in the funds he transfers to Gaza. Palestinian logic says that such decisions are more difficult to make when Gaza is in a state of combat with Israel. Hamas, for its part, is determined to continue with the marches of return, and now it has also entered into a competition against jihad for the title of the most militant organization in Gaza.

The Gaza conundrum looks complicated and unresolvable, but the government and the army have an obligation to try and find answers, instead of rolling with the punches from Friday to Friday. If we want to strive for a deal, the processes must be accelerated, and if the Egyptians are having a hard time delivering the goods, another intermediary must be found soon. If it is expected that Abu Mazin, by starving Gaza, is liable to entangle us in war, contrary to our broad interests, we must find a way to bypass Abu Mazin. On the other hand, the fact that week after week Hamas brings about 15,000 people to the fence shows that in our deterrence there is not working. Islamic Jihad paid a minimal price for a long Friday night of shooting at Israeli citizens. There is no reason to think it will not try it again.

We may be approaching the moment when the Iranians will want to cash in on their long-standing financial investment in the military arms of Hamas and Jihad. At the moment, they have the initiative."

Ends…

 

WHY DID NETANYAHU VISIT OMAN?: Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz surmises that if we let our imaginations run wild, Trump might now encourage the Saudi prince to promote an agreement with Israel to cleanse himself of the Khashoggi affair. Netanyahu's visit to Oman may be part of the process.

"Sultan Qaboos of Oman is a very secretive leader. He is minister of defense, finance, foreign affairs and intelligence, and heads the central bank. In Oman there are no democratic institutions and the ruler appoints the judges. Leaks are unlikely to come out of Muscat to shed light on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit. But that does not diminish the importance of the trip, which cracks the wall of no public meetings between Arab leaders and Israel's prime minister.

Netanyahu had good reason not to visit Oman and one excellent reason to do so. Oman is the close ally of Iran and Qatar. One is Israel's great enemy and one has been defined by Israel as supporting terror because of its assistance to Hamas and its alliance with Iran and Turkey. Oman recently announced that it opposes sanctions on Iran and that it intends to build a gas pipeline connecting it to Iran. It helped Iranian smugglers do business during the previous period of sanctions and it opposes Saudi Arabia's anti-Iranian policy.

Sultan Qaboos, Oman's absolute ruler, is the most veteran Arab leader; he came to power in a coup against his father in 1970. He opposes the Saudi war in Yemen, though he decided late to join the Arab coalition, and has even threatened to withdraw from the Gulf Cooperation Council due to his opposition to Saudi hegemony in the Gulf. When three Gulf States imposed an embargo on Qatar more than a year ago, Oman and Kuwait did not join this dramatic move and Oman even allowed Qatar free use of its ports to get around the blockade, setting a collision course with Saudi Arabia. Ostensibly Oman should have incurred Saudi sanctions no less than Qatar did, and Saudi Arabia might even have penalized Oman if not for American pressure and the desire to avoid a greater rift among the Gulf States.

The visit by an Israeli prime minister to Oman contradicts not only Israel's policy toward Iran, it sticks a toothpick in the eye of the Saudi kingdom. And yet, no condemnation has been heard from Riyadh or other Arab countries. Only Iran responded to the surprise visit with the interpretation that once again Israel and the United States are trying to drive a wedge into the Muslim world. This is relatively moderate verbiage that did not touch on the initiator of the visit, Sultan Qaboos, who is Tehran's ally. Iran cannot criticize Qaboos because back in 2013 it agreed to hold talks in Oman with U.S. officials on laying the groundwork for the nuclear agreement, and then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry subsequently met with Iranian officials for discussions that led to the nuclear talks.

And here we have Oman, on whose soil was born what President Trump called 'the worst agreement ever,' hosting with pomp and circumstance the Israeli prime minister, his wife and his entourage, and no less importantly, the Mossad chief. It is not superfluous to ask why the Mossad head of all people joined the visit, and it would not be baseless to assume that Mossad had a hand not only in planning the trip but also in assisting Qaboos in his rule for years. For years, the sultan's power relied on the British intelligence services to protect his little country of 2.9 million citizens, and another 2 million foreign workers or so. In any case, it is possible to conclude that the visit to Oman is the fulfilment of a promise Netanyahu made to forge ties with Arab countries that have not signed peace agreements with Israel. Thus the visit is very important politically to Netanyahu, but it is still too early to say whether the visit will lead to full diplomatic relations, with other Arab countries following suit.

In the same breath one might wonder what led Qaboos, Iran's ally, to invite an Israeli prime minister and thus raise a wave of speculation about the possibility of talks between Iran and Israel. We do not have to get excited about talks with Iran. The 76-year-old Qaboos, who three years ago fell ill with cancer, is a realistic leader who knows very well the limitations of the conflicts in the region. He certainly received a long lecture from Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen about the Iranian threat and Israel's desire for Oman to distance itself from Israel's enemy and join the U.S. sanctions. Qaboos certainly politely explained to his visitors that he has no intention of changing his taste for Iran. There is nothing new about Israelis visiting his country, considering that an Israeli representation operated in Muscat until 2000, but that was Israel's status in Morocco and Qatar as well.

Qaboos may have understood from Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas, who visited the sultan's palace shortly before Netanyahu, that there is a chance for renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. But it is unlikely that this was the reason that Qaboos invited Netanyahu, especially when on the horizon the Trump administration is threatening to announce its deal of the century. If there is someone who should and can persuade Netanyahu to renew the talks, he is sitting in the White House, not on the Persian Gulf coast.

If we let our imagination run wild, Trump might now encourage the Saudi crown prince to promote an agreement with Israel to cleanse himself of the Khashoggi affair, with the Israeli visit to Oman, to the expert go-between, being part of the process. But you have to exercise great caution when you let your imagination speak."

Ends…

 

OMAN IS ISRAEL'S LINK TO THE MIDDLE EAST: Ronen Bergman on Ynet contends that Israel and Oman have been keeping a secret channel of communications since the 1970's. Netanyahu's public visit to the sultanate serves both countries. For Israel, Oman can open a door to normalizing ties with other Arab countries, while Oman gets to present itself to the West as a more moderate and liberal nation.

"In the fall of 1979, two Israelis carrying foreign passports arrived on a flight to Muscat, the capital of Oman. One of them was Reuven Merhav, a senior Mossad official dealing with matters concerning the Middle East, who will later become the director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The other was a member of the IDF's General Staff, Maj. Gen. Menachem (Mendy) Maron. After landing, the two were transferred to a luxurious villa in Muscat and from there flown on a royal jet to meet with Sultan Qaboos at an encampment outside the capital. They were amused by the fact the bathroom on the plane, including the toilet itself, was made of gold.

The discussions lasted into the night, following which the guests went on a covert visit to a tiny Omani enclave called Ras Musandam, which is at the edge of the Musandam Peninsula, which essentially controls the Strait of Hormuz – the global oil gateway. 'The importance of that meeting was in its very existence,' Merhav recounted on Saturday. 'These are direct ties, though covert, with an important Arab country at a highly important strategic location.' This meeting was one of many held since the early 1970s between senior Israeli officials and officials in Oman. The ties with Oman opened the door to important covert ties with other countries in the gulf, primarily the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

 The public visit and the royal reception Prime Minister Netanyahu received over the weekend is the result of four months' work, led by Mossad. It is safe to assume Mossad Director Yossi Cohen visited Muscat to finalize the details of that visit.

Some of the Israeli officials involved in the covert ties with Oman could not help but wonder why the sultan is suddenly willing to have such a public and broadly covered visit now? The answer to that will not be found in Jerusalem. Qaboos wants to show a different side of his country to the West: A more liberal and tolerant side. Netanyahu's visit was scheduled before the Khashoggi assassination, but that terrible event definitely served the sultan's needs in showing the world that Oman is different.

Israel's possible gain from this visit is threefold: Primarily, Oman can serve as a channel to many countries – including Iran, Qatar, and Syria – and is seen by all as an honest broker. Through Oman, Israel could establish covert ties with any player in the region. This, of course, is conditional upon the agreement of that player, but under Qaboos' sponsorship, things are a lot simpler. A senior Israeli official even said that he does not 'rule out the use of Oman to open a secret channel with Iran and Syria.' Secondly, the hope is that other countries would take courage from this visit and also expose their own covert ties with Israel. Finally, for Netanyahu, exposing the ties with Oman is another layer in his Middle Eastern strategy, which includes creating covert alliances – and public ones whenever possible – with moderate Sunni nations and movements, in an effort to prevent Iran's spread throughout the region, as well as undermine Tehran's regional power, all the while proving that Israel can normalize its ties with Arab nations even without solving the Palestinian issue.

There is no doubt Netanyahu's public trip to Muscat is an important diplomatic achievement, but it is doubtful it could lead to normalization with many other Arab countries. It would be far more convenient and safe for the rulers of most of these countries to have close ties with Israel, but quietly, for fear of enraging their citizens."

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 29.10.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

REPUBLIC DAY ANNIVERSARY: Rauf Tamer celebrates the Turkish Republic's foundation day in centrist tabloid Posta: "It is not only the Republic; it is the Secular Republic. We will always commemorate Ataturk and his comrades with gratitude and thankfulness, looking at the fire of hell in our region and the regimes in our neighboring countries. The aim of contemporary civilization is our shared enthusiasm."

Orsan Oymen charges the president and ruling party with betraying the founder's legacy in opposition Sozcu: "What President Erdogan and the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] are trying to do is akin to Greece trying to go back to the Byzantine Empire, or Italy to the Roman Empire. This is a tragicomic situation. There is no government on earth that hates the founder of its own country so much, erases his name from every corner, places dynamite at the base of the country's founding principles, limits those who celebrate the anniversary of their country's foundation and national day, and serves as the instrument of imperialism while doing so! This is how Erdogan and the AKP will go down in history, no matter how many airports they may open."

Melih Altinok takes pride in the opening of a new airport in pro-government Star: "No one has any problem with Turkey's founding leader, the leader of the republican revolution. The only ones who have a problem are those who cheat Ataturk's system by exploiting his legacy. Anyway, we should feel proud of our republic, which will celebrate its 95th anniversary today by opening a majestic monument, one of the world's biggest airports, rather than boring receptions in Ankara. That is how to feel proud, work hard, and be honest. May this holiday be a joyful one."

 

SYRIA MEETING: Zekeriya Kursun sees hope for progress in Syria in pro-government Sabah: "The Istanbul meeting between those [Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany] that have opposing views and conflicts of interests and the expression of their common will should be seen as a sign of a transition from the era of war to that of armed peace in which diplomacy plays a more active role. The most important demonstration of the quartet's common will is their wish to activate a constitutional commission for Syria."

 

WOMEN'S RIGHTS: Ozge Yurrtas is concerned about the erosion of women's rights in pro-Kurdish opposition Yeni Yasam: "Women's guarantees at work, and for their future are being snatched out of their hands one by one. After all these misogynist policies in the social, legal, and cultural aspects of life, we are almost out of breath. By expanding women's exploitation in the workplace, the AKP's main political line on the issue of women's rights, and especially labor, is adding to the inequality women are already subjected to. Ultimately, this is our government: Old, selfish men who do not consider women their equal rule over us. Is this not the case?"

 

LOCAL POLITICS: Zeki Ceyhan takes aim at the ruling party's spokespeople in pro-Islamist opposition Milli Gazete: "The AKP spokespeople need to straighten themselves out, rather than try to advise people. This course of events does not bode well. What good can come from people who try to strangle each other in a teacup? Everyone stares at the leader and expects everything from him. Their leader, meanwhile, complains about being sick of interfering with them." 

 

Iran media watch

 

ARBA'EEN: Iranian media report extensively on the final preparations ahead of the mass gathering of mourners in Karbala in Iraq, to mark the 40th day after the anniversary of the third Shiite Imam Hussein's death in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Rolling news channel IRINN quoted the Arba'een HQ and central bank officials as ensuring that infrastructure and other services are in place for Iranian pilgrims in Iraq. IRTV1 (Channel One) reported on a large group footslogging from Najaf to Karbala. While the main event is expected to take place tomorrow, the TV said more than 20 percent of Iranian pilgrims have already returned home. State radio VIRI said there has been a 30 percent rise this year in the number of foreign pilgrims travelling to Iraq through Iranian border. First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri has called Iraqi Prime Minister 'Adil Abdul-Mahdi to thank him and the people of Iraq for hosting Iranians, the radio added.

 

PASSIVE DEFENSE: Conservative dailies Hemayat, Resalat, and Siyasat-e Ruz pitched into yesterday's remarks of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i, who urged the country's "passive defense" to confront "all infiltration by the enemies" of the regime.

 

OIL: Most reformist and business dailies cover the start of sales of crude oil at the Iranian Energy Stock Exchange (IRENEX). Iran began selling crude oil to private companies for export yesterday, part of a strategy to counter U.S. sanctions that will come into effect on 4 November to stop the country's vital crude exports. For its front-page headline, moderate Arman-e Emruz ran a quote from First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri who said yesterday: "We will sell oil regardless of U.S. intention". Business daily Kharidar (buyer in Persian) quoted Jahangiri as saying that "there is no replacement for Iran's oil". Government-run Iran pointed out that oil trading was now being run by the private sector – even though there is not enough clarity as to what exactly is considered private in the Iranian economy. Business daily Jahan-e Sanaat wrote: "The stock exchange smells like oil". English-language Press TV described the move as "a landmark strategy to dodge the impact of returning sanctions".

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Pro-regime users continue to post comments under different hashtags to mark the major Shiite ritual of Arba'een. Many Tweets have been re-posted by recently created accounts lacking proper profile pictures and names. Several thousand Persian-language users have commented on the occasion of the 7 Aban (29 October) uprising, which is commemorated, though unofficially, by many in Iran as Cyrus Day. Cyrus the Great enthusiasts say this was the day the Achaemenid king "peacefully" conquered Babylonia in 539 BC. A user shared a picture of the Tomb of Cyrus in Pasargad near the Southern city of Shiraz, along with a poem depicting how a simple monument made of stone has frightened the Islamic regime. "I will come to see you, thou King of the good ones, to mortify the ill-intentioned," wrote another user. Some called for unity against the Islamic regime by sharing photos of the U.S.-based Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah of Iran, at a meeting with members of the newly formed opposition group Farashgard in Washington last week.

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 29.10.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-Opening up to Israel

2-Beneficiaries and spectators

3-A major development in Istanbul

 

1-Opening up to Israel

 

By opening up to Israel, [Oman] would be strengthening its position with the U.S., thereby strengthening the safety net that surrounds it. But this seems totally unlikely in light of the past three weeks' developments, specifically the 'Khashoggi affair.' Oman has experienced more difficult, more complicated, and more threatening circumstances over the past four years, but did not commit this deed then, so why should it do this now, when its opponents are in a more difficult position than before, whether in Yemen or in their relations with the international community? I suspect – and to suspect is not always a sin – that the repercussions of Netanyahu's visit will not end soon, and that the Sultanate will pay from the credit and prestige that it has accumulated over the past years – unless it is embracing 'an initiative that matches the risk' either in Palestine, or in Iran, or on both tracks-- 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Jordanian ad-Dustour

What is happening is nothing more than an Omani gift to Israel in compliance with an American demand, in return for giving Muscat a green light to sponsor U.S./Iranian negotiations in light of the expected failure of the U.S. sanctions on Iran and the ongoing Saudi developments; and in return for another green light for Muscat to lead negotiations that will pave the way for a Yemeni settlement in light of Riyadh's current predicament. However, Israel remains as the main winner, even if has no plan to make use of this gain and even if Palestine is no longer an Arab priority and the calculations of pan-Arab interest have dropped off the agenda of [Arab] rulers and governments--Nasser Qandil in Lebanese al-Bina'

 

A number of different explanations have been offered as to why Oman agreed to receive Israeli PM Netanyahu last week, notes a leading Jordanian commentator. The Sultanate may be launching a new mediation between the U.S. and Iran and wishes to appease Israel; it may be mediating between Israel and the Palestinians; or it may be trying to protect itself against the background of a very difficult geopolitical situation. The view that Netanyahu's visit is a prelude to a U.S./Israeli war on Iran is totally misguided, especially in light of Riyadh's current predicament, argues the editor-in-chief of a pro-Damascus Lebanese daily. The visit was more likely to have been a gift to Israel in order to facilitate Muscat's mediation between Iran and the U.S., in light of the expected failure of Washington's impending sanctions on Tehran.

 

THREE EXPLANATIONS: "What impelled the Sultanate of Oman to receive the Israeli PM at this specific point in time?" asks 'Urayb ar-Rintawi in Monday's Jordanian daily ad-Dustour.

There have been three different explanations of this extraordinary step that runs counter to Oman's customary foreign policy:

- The first, most convincing, but least widespread explanation suggests that the Sultanate has launched a new mediation effort between the U.S. and Iran, thereby extending its earlier mediation under the Obama administration that paved the way for the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the '5 + 1' group. The advocates of this view believe that the Sultanate may have taken this step either at its own initiative or at the request of one of the two sides – Washington or Tehran. And because it believes that the 'Israeli knot' is the most important obstacle facing U.S./Iranian relations, it took the initiative, or was asked to help overcome it, which is why it complied with the Israeli PM's request to visit Muscat.

The advocates of this view also note what the Iranian foreign minister told the Japanese Kyodo News Agency regarding his country's readiness to resume negotiations with Washington without pre-conditions and on the basis of mutual respect. In this context, a certain Iranian 'tendency' (but not all its centers of power) may have decided to respond to Trump's call to launch new negotiations leading to a new nuclear agreement. This tendency or current may have found in the 'Omani channel' the means it is seeking to test the waters and begin indirect contacts with both Washington and Tel Aviv.

The advocates of this viewpoint add that this explains the Iranian Foreign Ministry's balanced and moderate reaction to Netanyahu's visit, compared to the revolutionary and conservative currents' violent campaign against both the visit and the Sultanate, whose echoes have reverberated in Lebanon. These same advocates recall what Trump has repeatedly said, namely, that the fate of the Iranian crisis will be determined at the negotiating table, albeit on terms that are unfavorable to Iran, and that he is totally confident that the Iranians will eventually return to negotiations over a 'new and comprehensive deal' with Washington. It is worth remembering that Iran and the U.S. are in a playground that Iranian diplomacy is very familiar with, and in which it has acquired great experience based on numerous precedents.

- The second and more widespread explanation says that the Sultanate is seeking to mediate between the Palestinians on the one hand, and Israel and the U.S. on the other. The supporters of this view link Netanyahu's visit to 'Abbas's three-day visit to Muscat that shortly preceded Netanyahu's. In this regard, it is worth noting that Abbas made a statement in an interview with Palestine TV that was impossible to understand except after Netanyahu's visit was revealed. Speaking from the Omani capital, he said: 'Everything that the Sultanate says and does stems from good intentions.' It was as if he had been informed about Netanyahu's visit beforehand and was offering the Palestinian reaction to it before it took place.

Advocates of this point of view suggest that 'Abbas may have asked for Omani intervention to overcome the difficult problems between him and Israel over Gaza, especially since the tahdi'a [lull or calming down] talks are drawing closer to achieving their aims, according to the Egyptian mediators. For 'Abbas fears that a tahdi'a may be achieved before [Fatah/Hamas] reconciliation. And he does not seem to be very happy with Egypt's behavior, while at the same time viewing Qatar's support for Hamas and the idea of a 'tahdi'a first' with suspicion. Moreover, he has no other Arab capital to resort to or whose help he can call to strengthen his position based on achieving reconciliation prior to any tahdi'a and empowering Rami al-Hamdallah's [PA] government before discussing any other issue.

Should this explanation prove to be true, Oman will pay a heavy price for taking the risky step of wagering its reputation and image on Netanyahu. For he is an untrustworthy liar. He hates the Palestinians and peace, and has never been known to honor any commitments or keep any promises. His visit to the Sultanate would have been a free-of-charge step that will benefit neither the Palestinians nor the Omanis. In other words, Netanyahu will be the sole winner from this risky venture.

- The third explanation suggests that the Sultanate is in a very difficult geopolitical position as the war in and on Yemen draws close to completing its fourth year, and in light of Muscat's tepid or cold relations with some weighty neighboring Gulf states [Saudi Arabia and the UAE]. By opening up to Israel, it would be strengthening its position with the U.S., thereby strengthening the safety net that surrounds it.

But this seems totally unlikely in light of the past three weeks' developments, specifically the 'Khashoggi affair.' Oman has experienced more difficult, more complicated, and more threatening circumstances over the past four years, but did not commit this deed then, so why should it do this now, when its opponents are in a more difficult position than before, whether in Yemen or in their relations with the international community?

"I suspect – and to suspect is not always a sin – that the repercussions of Netanyahu's visit will not end soon, and that the Sultanate will pay from the credit and prestige that it has accumulated over the past years – unless it is embracing 'an initiative that matches the risk' either in Palestine, or in Iran, or on both tracks," concludes Rintawi.

End…

 

AN ACT OF NORMALIZATION: "The Sultanate of Oman's reception of the [Israeli] occupation's PM represents an act of normalization that must be rejected and denounced, regardless of the pretexts and justifications," writes Editor-in-Chief Nasser Qandil in Monday's pro-Damascus Lebanese daily al-Bina'.

Israel is the sole winner from the Gulf states' 'normalization wave' in sports, culture, security, and politics. These are confirmed facts. But the political question concerns this visit's implications and significance: Is it paving the way for a military action against Iran, as some believe? Or is it meant to pave the way for a similar visit by Netanyahu to Saudi Arabia? Or is it merely the fruit of the relationship with Oman; one that has ripened and that Netanyahu has sought to pick at a moment when Saudi Arabia's image as a reliable ally has collapsed? Or is it all of these things?

What is certain is that in light of Saudi Arabia's current predicament, this is not the appropriate moment for the U.S. and Israel to consider waging war on Iran. After all, Saudi Arabia is the central Gulf state and in the official Arab order. It thus seems unlikely to play any strategic and fateful cards in the Gulf before it regains its health. Moreover, logic requires that when the goal is of a security and military nature, it should be kept secret, contrary to the public fanfare that has surrounded the visit and in which the [Israeli] occupation state's senior intelligence officials have joined in.

What is also certain is that normalization is a cumulative cultural and psychological process. Every step is a gain for Israel. But the qualitative step that American and Israeli efforts are focused on is that of normalization and an alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But the obstacles facing public normalization in this case are growing, despite the distance that the secret and half-public Saudi/Israeli cooperation has covered so far. Moreover, and after its latest and worsening predicament, Saudi Arabia seem to be in no condition to take a step of the sort that Israel requires. Talk of the [U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian] deal of the century that requires a significant Palestinian partner who will agree to relinquish Jerusalem, seems less and less plausible.

But Oman's step does not seem difficult to take, after having taken similar steps in the past, as did Qatar. Yitzhak Rabin visit to Muscat in 1994 and Shimon Peres's subsequent visit in 1996 are very significant. In fact, some believe that Muscat's moderate position regarding the regional conflicts stems from its greater ability to commit to refusing normalization than the rest of the Gulf states.

For like Qatar, Oman would rather join the normalization process once the U.S. effort to achieve compromises regarding the Arab/Israeli conflict is close to achieving its aims, rather than stand at the starting line when there are likely to be many clashes. Moreover, after Qatar lost this role and risked its ability to play a more major role by leading the Arab Spring's phase, Oman's chances of occupying its seat in hosting agreements increased. But there is a constant American set of requirements that must be satisfied by those who want to assume this role, and this includes the precondition that Israel must receive a certain prize.

For its part, Israel finds itself in a strategic predicament, unable to go to war and unable to make compromises. Its wager on liquidating the Palestinian cause by forging a partnership with Saudi Arabia under the banner of forming a common alliance against Iran is becoming more difficult. It is vital for it to safeguard its position and prepare for what may happen once Saudi developments, which are still in their first stage, have unfolded. And Muscat offers a window for that. Moreover, it also necessary to keep all that is happening open-ended if Israel is to return to the old negotiating framework once the Saudi opportunity collapses.

But this is not what is happening today. What is happening is nothing more than an Omani gift to Israel in compliance with an American demand, in return for giving Muscat a green light to sponsor U.S./Iranian negotiations in light of the expected failure of the U.S. sanctions on Iran and the ongoing Saudi developments; and in return for another green light for Muscat to lead negotiations that will pave the way for a Yemeni settlement in light of Riyadh's current predicament.

"However, Israel remains as the main winner, even if has no plan to make use of this gain and even if Palestine is no longer an Arab priority and the calculations of pan-Arab interest have dropped off the agenda of [Arab] rulers and governments," concludes Qandil.

Ends…

 

2-Beneficiaries and spectators

 

Anyone following the statements made by the leaders of the free world would be very hard pressed to find a single one in favor of the Saudi crown-prince… no one knows exactly how to build [an anti-Iranian] alliance between a group of countries that are in competition, hostility, and perhaps cold war with each other. The idea that they all face a common source of threat is not enough to establish this alliance. After all, the member states must decide on a mechanism for confronting this threat; but how can Saudi Arabia assume this mission when its regional policies have earned it hostility and driven away those who may have sided with it against Iran? [U.S. Defense Secretary] Mattis's [Manama] statement warrants very careful scrutiny. The implicit references to Saudi Arabia's role in undermining security and stability in the region are worrisome. And the greatest beneficiary of what has happened in recent weeks is Iran, which Riyadh claims is threatening regional security--Hassan al-Barari in Qatari Asharq

Tehran's position today is consistent with the notion that 'a stupid enemy is better than a clever ally.' For Saudi Arabia has presented Iran with a reward it never expected, at a time when the U.S. was drawing close to implementing its sanctions. What happened pushed Tehran out of the limelight; with the result that Riyadh has come to head the list of targets for international anger instead. For the moment at least, Iran will continue to occupy the seat of a gloating spectator waiting to see how matters may develop. It expects that the affair and its repercussions will continue to unfold for some time to come, which would serve its interest. Russia is another spectator – a non-gloating one this time – one that also waited for a long time before taking a stance on Khashoggi's murder that ran contrary to all that is being said in Europe and the U.S. The Kremlin has set itself up as a defender of the Saudi ruling family, refusing to believe that it was responsible for the crime--Hussam Kanafani on pan-Arab www.alaraby.co.uk

 

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis's statements in Manama regarding the Khashoggi affair should be read carefully because of their strong implicit criticism of Saudi Arabia, maintains a Jordanian commentator. Riyadh has lost much of its prestige after this affair, and it is difficult to see how it would be possible to create an anti-Iran 'Arab NATO' under its leadership in light of the hostility it has elicited from many potential members of that alliance. While most Western states have been gripped by the Khashoggi affair, other countries – primarily Iran, Russia, and China – have been occupying the spectators' seats preferring to wait and see what may happen next, notes a Lebanese commentator on a Qatari-owned news portal. Meanwhile, they are hoping to secure political and/or economic gains from Riyadh's plight.

 

UNDERMINING STABILITY: "In his speech to a security conference in Manama two days ago, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder could undermine stability in the region," writes Hassan al-Barari in Monday's Qatari daily Asharq.

And he added that any country's failure to commit to international criteria and the rule of law could undermine regional stability at a time of growing need for it.

Secretary Mattis was speaking in the context of a strategic culture that was manifest at two levels:

- First, he was implicitly criticizing Saudi domestic policies when he said that a nation is more secure when it allows opposition voices to express themselves. A close scrutiny of his words allows us to decode the U.S.'s understanding of the situation that held Saudi Arabia responsible for certain terrorist attacks, such as the 9/11 bombings. There is a common impression in the U.S. that had Saudi Arabia allowed for opposition and held elections, Osama bin Laden would have been no more than an extremist Saudi member of parliament and al-Qa'ida would not have attacked the U.S.

- Second, the U.S. is trying to build a broad regional alliance to confront and contain Iran. It ended with the view that Saudi Arabia will be at the forefront of this alliance. And the fact of the matter is that Saudi Arabia is also eager to establish the so-called 'Arab NATO' that will include 'moderate' Arab countries in addition to Israel, which will be part of that alliance in one form or another. But if Saudi Arabia is going to lead this alliance and help the U.S. in its cold war with Iran, Riyadh should not implicate itself in disagreements with countries that are members of this same group – for example, the blockade on Qatar.

Against this background, Jamal Khashoggi's murder delivered a strong blow to the prestige of Saudi Arabia and its crown prince in whom the U.S. has invested much to polish up his image. For how can the U.S. proceed to justify its relationship with a state led by a man whom the international community has accused of being implicated in the murder of a Saudi citizen whose only fault was to express an opinion that the crown-prince does like to hear? I believe that the White House will find it difficult to maintain its relationship with the Saudi crown prince while at the same time preserving respect for the administration within the U.S.

Has Saudi Arabia turned into a burden on its allies? Anyone following what is being written in the Western press would say 'yes.' And anyone following the statements made by the leaders of the free world would be very hard pressed to find a single one in favor of the Saudi crown-prince. Moreover, respectable international voices are calling for the perpetrators of this crime to be brought before an international tribunal, clearly casting doubt on the Saudi judiciary's transparency and credibility, even though the issue has less to do with the judiciary, as much as it has to do with the credibility of the Saudi position in general.

It is worth noting that James Mattis spoke of the alliance planned for next year, but no one knows exactly how to build such an alliance between a group of countries that are in competition, hostility, and perhaps cold war with each other. The idea that they all face a common source of threat is not enough to establish this alliance. After all, the member states must decide on a mechanism for confronting this threat; but how can Saudi Arabia assume this mission when its regional policies have earned it hostility and driven away those who may have sided with it against Iran?

"In short, Mattis's statement warrants very careful scrutiny. The implicit references to Saudi Arabia's role in undermining security and stability in the region are worrisome. And the greatest beneficiary of what has happened in recent weeks is Iran, which Riyadh claims is threatening regional security," concludes Barari.

End…

 

CALCULATING THE BENEFIT: "As the Saudi journalist and writer Jamal Khashoggi's case grips the world, especially the Western countries, certain countries have occupied the spectators' seats observing the development of Saudi Arabia's crisis from afar, and calculating how they may benefit from it at some later time," writes Hussam Kanafani on the Qatari-owned, London-based, pan-Arab news portal www.alaraby.co.uk.

This has begun to gradually emerge on the ground; especially in light of the growing possibility that Riyadh may turn towards other alliances should the U.S. and the European escalation regarding this case continue.

Iran, for example, is sitting in the first row. There is no doubt that it is enjoying the statements, positions, and suggestions regarding possible sanctions on Saudi Arabia issuing daily from the Western countries. Tehran waited for more than 15 days after Khashoggi's death before it issued a statement denouncing the crime and holding Saudi Arabia and the U.S. responsible. It had previously confined itself to watching from afar, undoubtedly accompanied by a strong dose of schadenfreude regarding Saudi Arabia.

After all, Riyadh had led the campaign against Tehran's nuclear agreement with former U.S. president Barack Obama. It also succeeded in pushing current U.S. President, Donald Trump to withdraw from the agreement and place Iran under the sword of sanctions once more.

Now, however, Tehran can see that the situation may be reversed, with Saudi Arabia threatened with sanctions and international isolation due to Khashoggi's murder. This has reduced the U.S. pressure on Iran after Trump administration has found itself in an awkward position regarding its alliance with Riyadh due to Congressional and media pressure on the administration.

In other words, Tehran's position today is consistent with the notion that 'a stupid enemy is better than a clever ally.' For Saudi Arabia has presented Iran with a reward it never expected, at a time when the U.S. was drawing close to implementing its sanctions. What happened pushed Tehran out of the limelight with the result that Riyadh has come to head the list of targets for international anger instead.

For the moment at least, Iran will continue to occupy the seat of a gloating spectator waiting to see how matters may develop. It expects that the affair and its repercussions will continue to unfold for some time to come, which would serve its interest.

Russia is another spectator – a non-gloating one this time – one that also waited for a long time before taking a stance on Khashoggi's murder that ran contrary to all that is being said in Europe and the U.S. The Kremlin has set itself up as a defender of the Saudi ruling family, refusing to believe that it was responsible for the crime.

Russia's public position, which is different from the Kremlin's men's hidden beliefs, reflects a high degree of political cunning and economic opportunism. The Russians are cautiously watching how Saudi Arabia's relations with the West, especially with the U.S., are developing waiting to build a new regional political alliance that would give them greater influence at the U.S.'s expense. The echoes of [senior Saudi commentator] Turki ad-Dakhil's article [claiming that Riyadh would realign with Moscow-see Mideast Mirror 16.10.2018] reached Moscow, which is in no hurry to move towards political normalization with Saudi Arabia and prefers to wait for the scene to become clear instead.

But Russia has no objection to exploiting the situation economically, as emerged clearly from the agreements signed at last week's 'Davos in the Desert' forum when Moscow made use of the Western boycott to be at the forefront of the scene and secure gains from the crisis that Saudi Arabia is undergoing. For Riyadh wanted to ensure the forum's success, regardless of who attends, and the Russians and the Chinese were the most prominent attendees.

China also is sitting in the spectators' seats. But its basic interests seem to be less expansive than Russia's and appear to be restricted to securing economic gains and filling the vacuum created by the Western companies' boycott or the Western states' halting their weapons' sales to Saudi Arabia.

"Jamal Khashoggi's death has not turned into a crime carried out by mere individuals. On the contrary; it appears to be a turning-point that may change the region political scene, after which those in the spectators' seats may join the field and occupy the place currently occupied by the leading players," concludes Kanafani.

Ends…

 

3-A major development in Istanbul

 

The major European parties finally appear to have acknowledged the need to join the Astana process and to recognize Syria and its allies' achievements on the ground, says Ali Nasrallah in today's Syrian ath-Thawra

 

This weekend's four-way Istanbul summit may prove to be a major development in Europe's views of the Syrian crisis, maintains a commentator in a Syrian state-owned daily. France and Germany's participation in the summit suggests that these two major European countries have decided to join the Astana process despite their initial opposition to it – an achievement that would have been impossible had it not been for the Syrian army's victories on the battlefield.

 

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? "Does the four-way Russian/French/German/Turkish summit in Istanbul represent a step in the right direction?" asks Ali Nasrallah in Monday's state-run Syrian daily ath-Thawra.

In other words, did it point to a belated European attempt to mark its distance from the American position? Or did it take place with Washington's acquiescence, suggesting that it is no more than an attempt to test Russia's determination, at best?

The analyses of the four-way summit are sure to examine it from different angles and different vantage points and positions. These differences will also correspond to the different results expected by various parties' and the degree to which they agree or disagree over the subjects under discussion and their proposed visions.

One realistic understanding of France and Germany's attendance of the summit and joining the Astana track and agreement to work with it – as indicated in the summit's final communiqué that states that 'the more the number of countries taking part in the Astana formula, the greater its chances of success' – suggests that this amounts to a admission of the mistakes committed when these Western countries joined Washington blindly (or with eyes wide-open) and contributed to supporting or sustaining terrorism, either willingly or because they were forced to do so.

France and Germany's attendance could also lead to the conclusion that the West now appreciates the danger of remaining absent, at a time when Russia is making great advances. This compels the West to claim that it is participating in the achievements of the war on terrorism, even if this comes at the final quarter-hour. This would allow the West to preempt any accusations of having acted otherwise, or to try to reserve a seat for itself, or not lose its role as an international player.

Be that as it may, the Istanbul meeting appears to be significant. For one thing, it has wrested out of parties hostile to Syria – France, Germany, and Turkey – what conflicted with the essence of their agendas of aggression until recently. For another, the meeting displayed Moscow's firm and determined position to these parties, if the aim was to test it. And on a third level, the meeting gave a legitimacy that was previously denied to the Astana formula; the West cast doubt on the entire process, in fact. The result is that these countries are now moving towards expanding their participation in this process and recognizing its achievements as a platform for a political solution and for fighting and defeating terrorism.

But no matter which direction commentators, observers, and players may take in their analyses and inferences, the main and fixed aspect that no one can ignore is that it is the situation on the ground that is creating and determining the course of political change.

"For had it not been for what the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have achieved on the battlefield, the Astana formula would not have been born, the Sochi conference would not have been held, and the Geneva proposals would not have melted away and disappeared," concludes Nasrallah

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 26.10.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

A Gaza deal?

 

The Egyptian delegation that visited Tel Aviv, Gaza and Ramallah in recent days has reportedly orchestrated an understanding between Israel and Hamas that would stop all violence from the Strip, including incendiary balloons and the flare-ups at the border fence. Sources told the London-based al-Hayat that Egypt has conveyed a message to senior officials in Gaza and the West Bank that all parties should refrain from escalating the situation, Channel 10 news reported. The sources clarified that the agreement did not amount to a ceasefire and that Palestinians will be able to continue weekly demonstrations at the border with Israel, but they will not commit acts of violence such as trying to breach the border, flying incendiary balloons or throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops stationed in the area. Israel has pledged in return to expand the maritime zone for permitted fishing off the Gaza coast, allow fuel to be supplied to the coastal enclave and extend the number of hours electricity is supplied. It will allow the United Nations to carry out infrastructure projects in Gaza. Sources told al-Hayat that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have accepted the terms of the offer. The Egyptians have reportedly pledged to the Palestinian Authority, which opposes an agreement between Israel and Hamas without Palestinian reconciliation; that they will work to reinstate the PA in Gaza. Egypt has recently tried to revive the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, hosting leaders from the two rival factions for separate talks in Cairo in the past month.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday said he was "hopeful" that the Gaza Strip would be calm over the coming weekend, without clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops, following weeks of heightened tensions and two flare-ups that threatened to lead Israel and the Hamas terror group to war. "I am hopeful and I anticipate that this Friday will pass more quietly – that's what we need to hope for," the defense minister said. Lieberman made his remarks in Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, next to the Gaza border, where he met with the heads of local governments to discuss the current strained security situation in the Strip.

Jordan said Thursday its decision to end a pair of land leases with Israel would not affect the decades-old peace agreement between the two countries, seeking to calm fears in Jerusalem that ties could be downgraded. King 'Abdullah announced Sunday that Amman would not renew an agreement to lease two parcels of land on the border to Israel for agriculture use, which it has done for the past 24 years as part of an annex of the peace treaty signed in 1994. Officials in Jerusalem feared that the move signaled Jordan's desire to effectively reduce diplomatic ties with Israel. Many saw it as a reflection of intense domestic pressure that still largely views Israel as an enemy. Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told Reuters that Amman had never planned to extend the land leases indefinitely.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman rejected reported demands by Moscow that Israel give the Russian military additional warning before carrying out airstrikes in Syria. "We will not accept any restrictions on our freedom of operation, and when it comes to national security, we will take action," Lieberman told Army Radio in an interview. He indicated that Israel has carried out more airstrikes in Syria than have been attributed to it by foreign media. "Just because the media did not report on Syria strikes does not mean there were none," Lieberman said. "I don't think it's our duty to report what the army must do. An army needs to act."

The Trump administration's envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will travel to Israel next week to meet with officials, as the White House prepares to release its peace plan and attempts to calm the situation at the Gaza border. "I can confirm that Special Representative Jason Greenblatt will be traveling to Israel this coming week," a White House official told The Times of Israel on Thursday. "This trip reflects the administration's commitment to productive engagement, as well as the value it places on understanding the situation on the ground, especially amid recent tensions." Greenblatt's agenda is not yet clear, but he is likely to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, though not with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas.

In political news, a poll by Channel 10 news finds that Likud would suffer, though not by much, were it led by former minister Gideon Sa'ar instead of Binyamin Netanyahu. According to the survey, Netanyahu's Likud would win 30 seats, and Sa'ar's 25. The five seats would go to Jewish Home and Yisrael Beitenu. Considering that both these parties are natural coalition partners of Likud, the difference in terms of coalition-formation calculus is minimal. Meanwhile, fallout from the radioactive Netanyahu/Sa'ar (and President Reuven Rivlin) brouhaha is continuing to pulsate through the press. Moti Tuchfeld from Israel Hayom, who kicked off the whole story by taking the bait and reporting on the supposed coup plot between Sa'ar and Rivlin, writes that Netanyahu did not have a beef with the fact that he could lose, but that he could win and the will of the people for him to remain in power might not be realized. Netanyahu does not have many friends in the press. Even former aide Yoaz Hendel writes scathingly in Yedioth Ahronoth, accusing Likud of suffering from mass delusions. Haaretz's Yossi Verter goes through the list of putsch attempts claimed by Netanyahu, back to the 1993 cassette affair, through a claim in 2009 that then-President Shimon Peres would do everything to give the government to "the left," to Netanyahu's claim that brought down the government in 2014 that Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni were plotting against him.

In domestic news, Police said Friday morning they are investigating an apparent hate crime in the Northern town of Yafa an-Naseriyye in the Galilee after residents reported that around 20 cars and two houses were vandalized overnight. Police said the vehicles had their tires punctured and were sprayed with anti-Arab graffiti, and the walls of two houses were daubed with Stars of David as well as Hebrew slogans including "revenge," and "price tag." "Price tag" refers to vandalism and other hate crimes carried out by Jewish ultra-nationalists ostensibly in retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies perceived as hostile to the settler movement. Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups, and even Israeli military bases have been targeted by nationalist vandals in recent years.

A report by Haaretz names former Barack Obama and Harry Reid aide Caroline Tess as a previously unknown third target by private Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube during an operation that went after Iran deal backers in the administration. Previous reports listed Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl as targets. The report claims that the operation was not meant to discredit the deal on behalf of Trump's people, but was actually a scheme to get info for a lawsuit to claim seized Iranian assets as part of terrorism judgments.

Finally, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday announced that Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi was his top candidate for the next commander of the Israel Defense Forces, according to The Times of Israel, ending a months-long selection process. Kochavi, who now serves as IDF deputy chief of staff, will need to be approved first by an official vetting committee and then by the cabinet before he can take over the post from Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who has been in the position since 2015. Deputy Chief of Staff Kochavi was seen as a front-runner for the position, having served as the head of the IDF Northern Command and head of Military Intelligence, following years as a field commander in the Paratroopers Brigade. He beat out the other three candidates who were considered for the position: Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon and Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir. Kochavi was scheduled to appear before the vetting committee on Sunday. Once the general is approved – as he is expected to be – Liberman will bring his candidacy for the position for approval before the government.

 

 

HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY FOR SOVEREIGNTY IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA: Dr. Anat Rot in Israel Hayom calls on Israel to annex territories. In areas A and B Palestinians will enjoy self-rule and freedom in domestic issues, while Israeli civil law will be applied to area C. Such a plan will bring calm.

"In the opening speech of the winter session, Prime Minister Netanyahu described the wonderful relationship he has forged with the American administration, the ideological partnership between the two countries, and the historic moves Trump is leading, such as the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem and the cessation of funding for UNRWA. Netanyahu is right. We are faced with a rare political window of opportunity, and we must use it to finally disengage from the vision of Oslo and the two-state solution and apply Israeli sovereignty to the territories of Judea and Samaria.

In the past decade, social and political elements, both local and regional, have joined together to lead most of the Israeli people – as well as senior American officials – to the conclusion that the two-state idea is not the 'solution' to the conflict, but rather its fuel. The demand that the Palestinians give up their ethos and agree to a final border, to the end of the conflict and the end of all their claims – is the main cause of violence and terrorism against us. It is a demand they are unable to meet, and they will do anything to avoid doing so.

The architects of Oslo and their partners repeatedly argue that there is a distinction to be made between Fatah and Hamas. The 25 years that have passed since then demonstrate that this is an artificial distinction. The difference between the two is merely tactical: Hamas openly talks about its longing for the destruction of the Zionist state and goes for broke: The return of the Palestinians to their lands and homes in Jaffa and Ramla, Haifa and Safed, and opposition to any territorial compromise. Abu Mazin, on the other hand follows in the footsteps of his mentor, Arafat, and adheres to a phased plan: He is prepared to accept a state within the 1967 borders, but only as a first stage. His goal is identical to that of Hamas; the destruction of the State of Israel. Therefore, he is unwilling to give up the right of return, to agree to the 'end of the conflict and the end of all claims' and to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. That is also why the Palestinians do not have a state yet. Not because of us, but because of them.

Assuming that left and right are in agreement that it is not recommended to continue the policy of 'sit and do nothing', there are two options on the table: Separation or annexation. Leftist elements, like the Institute for National Security Studies, suggest commencing a unilateral separation from Judea and Samaria, i.e., to grant the Palestinians a state inside our homeland – a front-line bastion for the destruction of Israel – without demanding anything in return.

The right, on the other hand, proposes diverting the train from the bloody Oslo track, and changing direction. Instead of Oslo's 'peace now' stance, which attempts to impose ideas from above and force an 'end to the conflict', it is time to create a reality of shared life from the bottom up that will of itself lead to the end of the conflict, naturally, step by step. On the basis of current reality, two separate living spaces must be established, Israeli and Palestinian, in a manner that will ensure Jewish majority, abolish the military government and normalize life in Samaria and Judea. Areas A and B, in which 98 percent of the Palestinians live, will be granted self-rule and residents will be given full freedom of action in all domestic matters (education, culture, tourism, economy, welfare, etc.). In Area C, Israel will apply Israeli civil law. At the same time, Israel will work to reduce friction points with the Palestinians, increase their freedom of movement, develop their infrastructure and create conditions for economic growth and improved quality of life. All this will be done by a series of steps that will replace walls with bridges.

In contrast to the left-wing programs, which generate constant tension and hyper-vigilance, this program will induce calm. As soon as we stop insisting on determining the basics, neither the Arabs nor the Jews will have to give up their dreams, erase their identity, blur their narrative and resolve 'now' the most charged issues. This is the climate in which it will be possible to lower the level of hostility and fear and bring stability and prosperity to the peoples of the region.

The Americans have already declared that they are open to hearing and learning new ideas. All that is needed is for Netanyahu to seize the day, take advantage of the window of opportunity that has opened, and lead the historic move that the entire right-wing camp is expecting: The reinstatement of Israeli sovereignty to our homeland."

Ends…

 

'ABDULLAH'S LESSON: Shimon Cohen on Arutz7 argues that King 'Abdullah has made clear to Israel the worth of the piece of paper on which a friendly peace agreement with Israel is signed. What will be the fate of an agreement signed with real enemies?

"Whatever the outcome of the current conflict between King 'Abdullah of Jordan and the Israeli government over the leased land, and whatever the reasons for that emphatic declaration by the King, Israeli politics and statesmanship have been given yet another chance to draw conclusions regarding the value of a peace agreement with our Arab neighbors.

Since the days of Oslo, and even before that, the Israeli right has warned about the validity of the piece of paper hashed out in Norway and signed on the White House lawn. Even if you succeed in signing an agreement with Arafat/'Abbas, there is no one who can vouch for the longevity of this agreement. The right-wing repeatedly warned that at any given moment an internal coup could occur, bringing to power far more violent elements than Arafat/'Abbas. If this were to happen when they have a state that controls the Dan region, Jerusalem and other cities, we will face a real existential threat.

These warnings have been reinforced over the years by a number of factors, most prominently by the PA itself. This was the case when Yasser Arafat himself was unable to restrain himself and in a Johannesburg speech, at the height of the Oslo talks, compared the agreements to Muhammad's agreements with the Quraysh tribe, a Hudaybah agreement that taught generations the Muslim principle according to which it is permissible to sign an agreement which will remain valid only so long as the Muslim is weak. When the Muslim grows stronger, he has the right to violate the agreement and attack his peace partner.

This was also the case with Faisal Husseini, the PA's senior official in charge of Jerusalem, in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper al-Arabi, in which he compared the Oslo Accords to the famous Trojan Horse, thereby clarifying the purpose of those agreements, which was to lure Israel into opening its gates to the armed entry of Palestinians, who would then instigate the revolution from within and defeat Israel in the future.

All these, and other declarations, were supposed to be warning signs staring the Oslo flag-bearers in the face, but as is well known, they did not heed them. They continued on the same path even when Hamas instigated the democratic upheaval and took control of the Gaza Strip. They were not bothered by the right's early warning, because they deem the right to be delusional and crazed; that the day would come when the agreement would be exploited by much more violent terrorist groups, which would direct their missiles from the hills of Samaria and Judea towards Israeli population centers.

It seems to me that one must also view King 'Abdullah's recent declaration in the spirit of that ancient warning: Jordan is a country that is defined by many, even prior to the signing of the peace treaty with it, as a friendly country. 'Abdullah is purportedly an enlightened and progressive king, a product of Western education, the son of a king who looked like a kind and smiling grandfather, who kneeled before the bereaved families from the terrible massacre at Naharayim. This is a king in whose names we were promised, in the wake of his father's death, that he would rule in his father's style and not change a thing in his attitude toward Israel. This is a neighboring country with which we have not had a violent conflict for decades; a kingdom who has enormous economic and political interests in maintaining its agreements with Israel.

The moment the political chains that prevented him from taking action for 25 years were removed from the hands of the King, he immediately hastened to announce the cancellation of what is not the core of the agreement. Anything that might be considered a gesture of goodwill and cooperation no longer interests the King, and the appendix signed by his father and the Israeli prime minister is worth nothing in his eyes. For what is an addendum to a peace agreement and what are economic interests when compared to the deep hatred of the Zionist enemy. This relatively small step taken by the enlightened and Western King to our East should be another warning in a long line of warning signs that have flashed throughout the 25 years of Oslo. One has to be a particularly disturbed dreamer to believe that the Palestinians in spite of their open declarations will act otherwise in an agreement signed with them, if it is ever signed."

Ends…

 

JORDAN'S COLD SHOULDER AND THE KHASHOGGI MURDER: Ariel Kahana in Israel Hayom claims the common thread between Khashoggi and Jordan is that Arab states' attitude towards Israel has been damaged. MbS's weakening is troubling Jerusalem. Hopefully, Riyadh and Amman understand that if they do not side with Israel – they will be forced to give in to Iran.

"Two completely different events, in completely different countries, by completely different people and in completely different contexts. And yet, even if indirectly, from the Israeli point of view, there is a connection between the murder of the Saudi journalist in Turkey and the withdrawal of Jordan from the appendices to the peace treaty.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan both planned their moves long before they were carried out. The common thread linking the two events is that they undermine the rapprochement between the Arab states and Israel. Many reports in the media and many statements made by the prime minister in recent years, tell of close ties, under the table, between Israel and the 'moderate' Sunni Arab states. This term refers mainly to the Gulf emirates who fear Iran. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, therefore countries of the region are flocking to Israel's side.

One of the main figures supporting this is Saudi Crown-Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Khashoggi's greatest enemy, and whose associates reportedly carried out his barbaric murder. The 32-year-old MbS detests Iran, whose Yemenite proxies have been bombarding the cities of Saudi Arabia with missiles for months. He exhibited a tolerant attitude towards Israel, markedly different from the tone set in Riyadh since the establishment of the state. 'Palestinians and Israelis have a right to a land of their own', he asserted, in what was considered a very moderate utterance in Saudi terms.

MbS was a pivotal player in the new Middle East power map, at the center of which is Israeli/Arab/American resistance to Iranian expansion. Even if not openly or officially, he was the one on whom Trump and Netanyahu relied when they dreamed of and promoted a regional breakthrough bypassing the Palestinians, and against the aggression from Tehran. The extent of the damage to MbS's status in his country and the U.S. is still unclear, but he will obviously be weakened. And when MbS bleeds; his non-conformist policy towards Israel bleeds as well.

MbS's distant cousin, King 'Abdullah of Jordan, did not need the crown-prince's embarrassment to distance himself from Israel. For several years now, the Kingdom of Jordan has been intensifying its practical cooperation with Israel, but increasingly silencing any external exposure of these ties. Jordan buys gas and water from Israel. The security coordination between the two countries is closer than ever. Nevertheless, King 'Abdullah refuses to be photographed with Netanyahu when he meets him. His emissaries at UNESCO and the Security Council do not miss an opportunity to poke fingers in our eyes. De Jure, there is peace between the two countries. De facto, the tensions are rising incessantly.

Whatever his motives, 'Abdullah seized the first opportunity and signaled to his people and to the world that he downgrading peace with Israel. In Israel there was talk this week of a severe blow, disappointment and a clear signal that is part of a clear trend. While the prime minister and defense minister are trying to lower the flames, the Jordanians, it seems, have exhausted the possibilities of increasing them. Netanyahu said he would begin negotiations with Jordan and stressed the importance of relations with it. Lieberman did the same.

In Jordan, even the moderate and supposedly pro-Israeli camp is squeezing the lemon of hostility to the end. 'The position of the Jordanian people and the state of Jordan is clear: Give us our lands and go away,' wrote Marwan Mu'asher, who was the first Jordanian ambassador to Israel and later became the kingdom's foreign minister. This is the feeling in what is supposed to be the Jordanian peace camp.

Dr. Eran Lerman, former deputy head of the National Security Council, concurs that we are at the end of an 'unsuccessful week,' as he puts it, in matters pertaining to the rapprochement between Israel and the Arab states. He views the Jordanian action as legitimate but 'infuriating'. They rely on us for security, receive water above and beyond the agreements, and were able to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis thanks to our security envelope. There is a huge gap between what is happening on the political level and the public's positions.

As for the link between the Khashoggi affair and the Jordanian action, Lerman, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, also sees this, although he believes that the main trends will continue. 'The Khashoggi issue is creating tension within the Sunni camp, which is also called the moderate camp of the Arab states. And there are internal contradictions between Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. But, despite what happened this week, the main parameters have not changed and the fear of Iran, which led to the rapprochement with Israel, still exists. Saudi Arabia is at war, Iranian missiles are falling on Riyadh, and soldiers are being killed in numbers they have not experienced. The fear of Iran did not begin with MbS, and will not disappear if he is ousted. This threat also affects Jordan'.

The smiling photograph depicting King 'Abdullah with MbS at the height of the Khashoggi storm was meant to signal to Saudi Arabia that Jordan, despite the global onslaught, would remain faithful. The reason, which precedes even the fear of Iran, is the shaky Jordanian economy, which depends on Saudi Riyals for subsistence. 'Abdullah can afford a quarrel with tolerant Israel, but not with MbS the killer. Moreover, Iran was and remains the dominant factor in the region, where players align on the chess board in accordance with their fear of her. Therefore, despite this stormy week, in the long run both Saudi Arabia and Jordan will discover that if they do not stand by Israel, they will have to surrender to the ayatollahs in Iran."

Ends…

 

RETALIATION AGAINST TRUMP: Shlomo Shamir in Maariv explains that the peace plan Macron is expected to present soon is a warning to Trump. He ruined the nuclear accord for the French, now they will proceed to disrupt his peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.

"French President Macron is not the only one vying to initiate and promote a peace plan, key EU member states also harbor similar ambitions. The president of France is not the only one tired of waiting for the publication of the U.S. peace plan – excuse me, 'deal of the century' – that President Trump has been promising since he entered the White House. In off the record conversations amongst ambassadors and senior diplomats at the UN headquarters in New York, statements have been heard for some time now mocking what is termed 'the infinite amount of time and endless amount of work that the White House is investing in the formulation and wording of the peace plan'.

The report according to which the president of France is threatening to publish an independent peace plan, has been interpreted by diplomats, representatives of Western powers and pundits in New York as a warning to President Trump: 'You spoiled the nuclear agreement with Iran for us. We will disrupt your peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians'. This is no joke. France, Britain and Germany, which were involved in the negotiations that yielded the nuclear agreement with Iran, do not forgive the U.S. for its decision to withdraw from the agreement. Russia and China, who were partners in the 'group of six' that signed the nuclear agreement, are also angry at the U.S. efforts to thwart it.

Diplomatic intrusion into American monopoly in promoting a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appears to be a sweet act of revenge against the U.S. The French president cannot be denied his peace plan. But the chances of a French initiative being officially discussed in the UN Security Council are extremely slim. If it is presented for discussion, it will not be approved, due to a guaranteed U.S. veto. Mediation, diplomatic activity and efforts to promote a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are reserved exclusively for the U.S. No administration in the past three decades has allowed any power or international party to interfere in the negotiations. President Trump, whose relations with the Western powers are in any case shaky, will be even more adamant than his predecessors in the White House that the U.S. maintain this exclusivity."

Ends…

 

THE DANGEROUS ILLUSION OF ABSOLUTE SECURITY: Yoram Yuval on Ynet claims that we need to acknowledge that no high-tech defense system can provide absolute security, even if time and time again our politicians lead us to believe otherwise; this is dangerous nonsense that will blow up in our faces.

"IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manlis said a simple truth this week. This truth must be said, and everyone who lives in Israel must hear it, and internalize it too. It is the truth that our politicians do not want to tell us about the Iron Dome, David's Sling and the other expensive defense systems: 'The system's defense capability is not hermetic. What saved the day were the correct actions of a citizen,' the IDF spokesman said after a rocket hit a residence in Be'er Sheva.

That is the truth; and we need, and can, live with this truth. Protection, any protection, will never be perfect. The illusion of absolute security, which our politicians pretend to demonstrate to us time and time again, is seductive but also a flawed and dangerous illusion.

This is not the first time that the IDF has been forced to do the dirty and unpopular work for the politicians on behalf of the Israeli public, and will almost certainly not be the last time.

Even the coalition members, who do not say so explicitly, constantly emphasize Israel's wonderful defense capabilities. They lead us to believe that the Israeli home front is on its way to being completely protected, hinting that we will all soon live in safety under a multi-layered defense shield of the Iron Dome, David Sling, the technological barrier around the Gaza Strip and other amazing and expensive defense systems that will protect us from harm.

It is written in the monthly prayer for the sanctification of the new moon: 'Just as I leap (and dance) opposite you and cannot touch you, so may my enemies be unable to touch me for harm.' Our politicians lead us to believe that when crunch time arrives, the Iron Dome will ensure that hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah and Hamas rockets will not harm us. This is not just false, it is utter nonsense; nonsense that will smack us in the face in the next major military confrontation, as it did this week in the apartment of Miri Tamano and her three children in Be'er Sheva.

Anyone who suggests that we can, now or in the future, be totally protected from harm on the home front, thanks to our defensive missile systems – is simply lying to us. About two months ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu presented the 'Security Concept 2030'. Its main aim is to add enormous funds to the air defense and cyber defense systems at the expense of the ground forces; in other words, strengthening the home front defenses, at the cost of eroding IDF's ability to achieve a swift and decisive victory on land. 'Rest assured,' the politicians say, 'we are watching over you. Vote for us, and we will spare no amount of money so that you are completely protected.'

But why? Why do politicians insist on lying to us over and over again by telling us about the wonders of Israel's impenetrable defense technology? Why are they telling us that high-tech missiles will protect us from all evil and thwart any possibility of harming Israel's citizens? The answer is human nature – we very much want to hear it and believe it. Our politicians, clever and efficient at marketing, are always happy to soft-soap us. Who does not want absolute security for themselves and their family? And who is unwilling to pay any price, and vote for any candidate in order to attain this confidence?

There is only one small problem: There is no such thing as absolute security; nor will there ever be. We are always living under some level of danger. Mental health is the ability to live with this knowledge, to live with doubt and in the shadow of danger, and still function normally, and feel at ease. What we need in the home front is not blind faith in the falsehood that we are completely protected, but rather the readiness to act when attacked. The air defense systems will successfully intercept most of the missiles that would hit us, but not all of them. There is no substitute for a well-trained home front that is prepared for any challenge.

This, in fact, is what Miri Tamano, a true Israeli hero, understood this week. As her sister, attorney Ora Tamano, said: 'My sister is a lioness, she slept downstairs and the children slept in three separate rooms upstairs. She simply grabbed them (upon hearing the alarm) and dragged them to the security room. It gave them life. There is nothing left of the house except for that protected room. She is special; a woman of valor. When I myself am at home, there is a dilemma whether to go to the security room or not, because we rely on the Iron Dome. She did the right thing.'

She is 100% correct. We have the means to deal with the missile threat to the Israeli home front. Our air defense systems are indeed a pride-worthy technological achievement, and they are an important element in protecting the home front. But they have cracks, and there will always be cracks. They cannot – and must not – replace vigilance and resourcefulness, readiness for quick response, and use of safety rooms.

The desire for absolute security, and hermetic defense of the home front, is a dangerous illusion. And since our politicians will not tell us this, we should listen to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. We must be prepared to carry out the instructions of the Home Front Command, which is what Miri Tamano did, and by doing so; she saved her children's lives. This is our true defense, which must be nurtured and practiced, even if it does not add points to politicians in the polls."

Ends…

 

A LOOMING CRISIS THAT SHOULD BE PREVENTED: Elie Podeh in The Jerusalem Post asserts Israel must not threaten to cut the water supply to Jordan, which was stipulated in the peace agreement.

"Less than 10 months after the resolution of the previous Israeli-Jordanian crisis, a new crisis may be sparked by King 'Abdullah's recent decision not to renew the two annexes to the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty.

When the treaty was signed in October 1994, Israel and Jordan decided to establish a 'special regime' in two areas, Naharayim (al-Baqoura in Arabic) and Tzofar (al-Ghumar in Arabic), which would remain under Jordan's sovereignty with Israeli private land use rights. The 'special regime' granted unlimited freedom to the landowners, their employees, and their invitees, without applying any customs or immigration legislation. According to the treaty, this arrangement would be in place for 25 years and renewed automatically unless Israel or Jordan gives one year's notice in advance of its termination. In such case, discussions between the parties shall begin.

From a purely domestic Jordanian perspective, this was a timely and astute decision: The king sought to appease the mounting opposition to the peace treaty with Israel in general and the two annexes in particular coming from parliament, political parties, trade unions and civil society at large. Facing growing criticism and periodic waves of demonstrations of citizens protesting against economic and social hardships, the king fired Prime Minister Hani Mulki in June 2018, but to no avail. 

Now, in a single stroke, he managed to divert his people's attention from their daily problems. Jordanian print and social media applauded the king's bold decision. In addition, it can be speculated that King 'Abdullah is frustrated by the right-wing Netanyahu government, which demonstrates little interest in promoting a dialogue with the Palestinians, and is pushing for international recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thus ignoring Jordan's special role in the holy Muslim sites in Jerusalem, as stipulated by the peace treaty. In fact, this very issue has been the cause of a series of diplomatic crises between the two countries in recent years.

Admittedly, the decision is difficult to reconcile with the consistently warm Israel-Jordanian military and intelligence cooperation. Collaboration between the two countries grew even stronger in the wake of the Arab Spring, as Israel helped the kingdom in various ways to stop the infiltration of radical jihadi elements from Syrian and Iraqi territories under the control of ISIS. It seems, therefore, that relations between Israel and Jordan move on two parallel tracks simultaneously: The public and the hidden. Yet, a deterioration in the public domain may also affect the hidden.

Israel was not entirely surprised by the king's decision. If, as all available information suggests, Netanyahu was warned in advance of the coming decision and did nothing to prevent it, then the decision is the result of negligence and miscalculations, and a prime example of how the absence of a foreign minister working in full capacity adversely affects Israel's decision-making. But it is also yet another demonstration of Israel's 'everything will be OK' (yehiye beseder) syndrome.

The question is what can be done now to prevent the situation from deteriorating into another diplomatic crisis. Unfortunately, as Jordan's quiet messages went unheeded by Israel, the king tweeted his decision publicly. That makes it difficult for him to backtrack without a blow to his own pride. In addition, by inflaming public opinion, Jordanian media turned the decision into an issue that involves national honor. Just as the tiny territory of Taba in the Sinai Peninsula became a national issue for Egypt in the 1980s, Naharayim and Tzofar have now became hot issues in Jordan.

How should Israel respond? First, it should be stated what Israel should not do: It should not threaten to cut the water supply to Jordan, which was stipulated in the peace agreement. Water is a highly sensitive issue in Jordan, and Israel has been generous in providing Jordan with more water than stipulated in the agreement, and it should continue doing so. What Israel should do is make an effort to divert any discussions on this issue from the public to the secret track, removing the sting from the heated public debate in the media on both sides. These secret talks should focus on finding a creative solution based on the peace treaty and the two countries' shared experience. 

Article 7b of the treaty allows the parties to 'enter negotiations with a view to concluding agreements on economic cooperation, including trade and the establishment of a free trade area or areas.' A talk with several Israeli experts on the issue emphatically confirmed that a creative solution can be found which will be satisfactory to both sides.

June 2017, after an Israeli security guard killed two Jordanians after being attacked, it took the Israeli government six months to resolve the crisis with Jordan. It was an unnecessarily long period. Today, Israel should act immediately to contain the looming crisis and propose a reasonable solution to the problem.

The main lesson from this episode is that Israel needs to pay greater attention to diplomacy. But as long as Israel's foreign policy is subservient to national security considerations, the government will continue to suffer from periodic diplomatic blunders."

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 26.10.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

KHASHOGGI AFFAIR: Ertugrul Ozkok expects new developments in the Khashoggi affair in center-right Hurriyet: "The Washington Post has reported that the U.S. Senate could call on CIA director Gina Haspel for a briefing. I think that would represent a major step. Haspel is herself an interrogator and the things she is going to talk about could move the issue from the White House and turn it into a more institutionalized means of pressure."

 

LOCAL ELECTIONS: Sabahattin Onkibar suggests that the president is capable of anything in ultra-nationalist opposition Aydinlik: "Erdogan could go arm-in- arm with the U.S again. He could take the East of the Euphrates and the [Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units] YPG off his agenda again. He could start a new love affair with the EU, which he once attacked as 'crusaders'. He could agree to withdraw troops from Cyprus. He could sit down for talks with the HDP [pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party] again. He could agree to an IMF program after the local elections. In reference to Russia and China, he could say: 'They're communists, anyway.' On Iran, he could say, 'They are just the remnants of Shiites and Persians'. These are all possibilities. The opposite could also happen. But tell me, would you be 'surprised' if they did?" 

Kazim Gulecyuz sees a parting of the ways within the ruling alliance in pro-Islamist opposition Yeni Asya: "How can the People's Alliance between the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] and AKP [ruling Justice and Development Part] continue when the list of issues causing polemics between them keeps mounting? What will they all do when the MHP's draft criminal amnesty law gets pushed aside and the AKP's version comes to parliament? It seems that the AKP will be left alone after its alliance with the MHP ends, and that it will be obliged to look for another partner to top up its numbers in a critical vote." 

Nuh Albayrak hopes to sustain the alliance in pro-government Star: "The 'People's Alliance' should continue until the executive presidential system is fully institutionalized. With this understanding, we have attributed the utmost importance to the 'Yenikapi spirit' and the alliance that it produced ever since the July 2016 coup attempt. With this in mind, it was obvious that one-sided, surprise statements about issues relating to both parties, such as the amnesty bill and the local election alliance, would affect the alliance negatively."

Mahmut Ovur notes the difficult search for candidates in pro-government Sabah: "In Ankara's power halls, the talk is also about possible municipal candidates. But nothing is certain. All the parties are searching for suitable candidates. Names that are spelled out or opened to debate are little more than assumptions. This also plays into the hands of the political parties. They check whom public opinion is talking about and how it reacts to certain names. The opposite is also being considered: The possibility that names are being circulated simply to damage them by unnecessary marketing. This is why parties are paying utmost attention to prevent any surprising names from being leaked."

 

JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE: Rahmi Turan reminds the president of the separation of powers in nationalist opposition Sozcu: "President Erdogan cried out: 'What is this about? Am I supposed to check with the Court of Cassation before I sign a decree?' He could not help himself. He added: 'If I have to seek permission of the Court of Cassation, I better not hold this office.' He said all this looking at the faces of judges in a symposium. He was obviously quite upset about the Court of Cassation's ruling that allowed the nationalist Student's Oath to return to schools. Such aggressive behavior and words mean 'pressure on the judiciary'! Mr. Erdogan: The duty of the Court of Cassation is to rule in compliance with the laws of the Republic of Turkey and on behalf of the Turkish nation."

 

Iran media watch

 

(Please note that Iranian newspapers do not publish on Fridays and Channel One (IRTV1) does not air its morning news bulletin.)

 

ARBA'EEN: Domestic broadcast media this morning led with preparations ahead of the Arba'een ceremonies that mark 40 days after the anniversary of the third Shiite Imam Hussein’s death in the battle of Karbala. Most pilgrims will footslog across the border to attend the main event in Iraq on 30 October. State radio VIRI reported that up to 1.8 million Iranians have registered to take part in the pilgrimage, adding that so far 1.7 million have received visas. More than 1.3 million pilgrims have already entered Iraq, the radio added.

 

ICJ RULING: All broadcast media, including English-language Press TV, highlighted a statement by Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, who urged the world to abide by a recent ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic. He called on the U.S. "to implement the provisional measure, including refraining from measures such as wrongful sanctions that will aggravate disputes," Press TV said. "Other states are also expected to refrain from assisting the U.S. in imposing any impediments in transactions involving specified items, which would amount to violation of the court's order and would be tantamount to providing assistance to the wrongdoer," rolling news channel IRINN quoted the Iranian envoy as saying. On 3 October, the ICJ ruled on an Iranian lawsuit against U.S. government sanctions, ordering Washington to lift restrictive measures linked to humanitarian trade, food, medicine and civil aviation.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: A group of pro-regime users have commented after Twitter suspended the accounts of some hardline users apparently due to their anti-Israeli comments and spread of "hate speech". "For us revolutionaries, waiting for the elimination of Israel is like waiting for the arrival of the 1979 Revolution anniversary: Definite and delightful," one cleric wrote in a Tweet he posted on his new account, saying that access to his original account had been restricted. Most of these users have changed their header photos to a screenshot of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i's mantra that "Israel will not exist in 25 years". Thousands of others have commented under different hashtags with regards to the upcoming Arba'een mourning rituals. Some have shared images of the seemingly indecorous conditions the Iranian pilgrims faced as they lined up to exchange their Iranian rials with subsidized foreign cash (Iraqi dinars) on the way to Karbala. "They have knelt down to get their Iraqi dinars from holes dug in the wall. Self-abasement is indeed a Shiite tradition," one user wrote to a relevant video. A hardline cleric posted mobile phone footage of a crowd of pilgrims gathered outside a Bank Melli branch in the city of Najaf, and complained that this had "blighted the Arba'een horizons".

 

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 26.10.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-The kingdom of silence and gold

2-'Sovereign matters'

 

1-  The kingdom of silence and gold

 

Saudi Arabia used to have many international and regional friends. The Khashoggi incident has driven it far down the ladder as far as most democratic countries are concerned, and is also subjecting it to many questions even in the countries of tyranny and enslavement, such as the Arab countries. The U.S. for example, used to believe that Saudi Arabia is fighting terrorism. But it has now been proven that there is no terrorism worse than that which Saudi Arabia is engaged in against its own citizens. Even ISIS's terrorism did not descend to the level of what happened in the Saudi consulate. Saudi Arabia has damaged its image and reputation by engaging in many rash adventures such as its war on Yemen and its blockade of Qatar. But it has now caused itself grave additional harm by murdering Khashoggi--Abdelsattar Qassem on www.arabi21.com

We do not exclude the possibility that the suspects in Khashoggi case will be tried on charges of failing in their duties, covering up the crime, and hiding the evidence, after which death sentences would be issued against them that would be carried out immediately. More than one party, led by President Trump himself, is seeking to 'wrap up' this case. But we believe that these attempts will fail because this has become a case of interest to American public opinion in which the American media are involved, making sure to keep it in the limelight, not out of love for justice but out of hatred for Saudi Arabia and its close relations with President Trump, especially those between his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Prince Mohammad bin Salman--'Abdelbari 'Atwan on pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com

Has there been a crime in history more foolish than this? Or did the planners of the crime reassure the perpetrators that no one would dare to expose them? After all, those who drop a hint that they may expose the perpetrators would have their mouth filled with gold; otherwise, steps will be taken to ensure that they would share Jamal Khashoggi's fate. It seems that Saudi Arabia's 'high and mighty' were sure that they had sufficient gold to seal the mouths of all curious people or those enamored of thrillers and who like to wallow in the blood of victims of political assassination. But it is rare for such assassinations to be so public and to demonstrate such lack of concern for other countries, large or small, relying on the Kingdom of Silence and Gold's gilded immunity-- Talal Salman on Lebanese www.assafirarabi.com

 

The Khashoggi case will have major repercussions for the region, argues a Palestinian commentator in a Qatari-owned news portal. It will weaken the Saudi royal family and the Sunni axis that it leads, and strengthen the Iran-led 'resistance axis' in return; it will also allow Arab intellectuals to be more daring in their criticisms of their tyrannical regimes, and will undermine Israel's attempts to normalize relations with a number of Arab states. Despite successful American and other attempts to convince Turkish President Erdogan not to expose all the facts concerning the Khashoggi case, he is clearly under domestic pressure to do so, argues the editor-in-chief of an online pan-Arab daily. There is also growing pressure from the U.S. media and members of congress not to support any coverup of the Saudi crown-prince's role in Khashoggi's murder. This must be one of the most foolish political crimes in history, maintains a veteran Lebanese commentator. It could not have been carried out without direct orders from a rash and arrogant Saudi crown-prince who seems to believe that he can silence everyone with either his copious gold or his sword.

 

REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL REPERCUSSIONS: "Khashoggi's murder will not pass without regional and international repercussions that may serve the Arab peoples' interest but will come at the expense of their rulers," writes 'Abdelsattar Qassem on the Qatari-owned news portal www.arabi21.com.

These repercussions can best be summarized as follows:

- Khashoggi's death has weakened the Saudi royal family. It has placed it under the entire world's scrutiny. Anyone who previously viewed it as a family of respectable and convincing rulers is now reconsidering these assumptions.

Saudi Arabia used to have many international and regional friends. The Khashoggi incident has driven it far down the ladder as far as most democratic countries are concerned, and is also subjecting it to many questions even in the countries of tyranny and enslavement, such as the Arab countries. The U.S. for example, used to believe that Saudi Arabia is fighting terrorism. But it has now been proven that there is no terrorism worse than that which Saudi Arabia is engaged in against its own citizens. Even ISIS's terrorism did not descend to the level of what happened in the Saudi consulate. Saudi Arabia has damaged its image and reputation by engaging in many rash adventures such as its war on Yemen and its blockade of Qatar. But it has now caused itself grave additional harm by murdering Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia has been severely weakened in moral terms, but it has also weakened many Arab regimes with it because the practices of the Arab tyrannical regimes are all one and the same. How many Arab intellectuals, journalists, and academics have met with a harsh fate in their countries? How many have been persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, murdered, or been forced to flee in search of safety and security?

But what happened may benefit Arab opinion makers, who may now be able to escalate their activities in the Western countries, and demand that the West should cease backing Arab tyranny and admonish Arab rulers. Arab opinion makers and writers were in need of such a serious shock that would awaken the international media and the world's conscience from its deep slumbers. The shock, however, came at Khashoggi's expense.

- If Saudi Arabia is weakened, its axis – which it portrays as a Sunni axis confronting Iran and its axis – will also be weakened. (It is very unfortunate that Saudi Arabia and its ilk have forced Arab commentators to use the terms 'Sunni' and 'Shiite', which we would never have otherwise used in other circumstances). It is worth noting that Iran and Hezbollah have stood silently on the sidelines, but have also been delighted by the Saudi downfall and by the attitude expressed by other countries towards this event. Saudi Arabia's credibility on the Arab arena has been increasingly weakened, and the support that it enjoys from the other Sunni parties will now also shrink.

What is happening is similar to what happened after its misdeed against Sa'd al-Hariri. Hariri's detention affected Saudi support among Lebanon's Sunnis, and its misdeed turned against it in the [May 2018] Lebanese elections. A state may acquire popular and media support, but it needs to remain loyal to those who support it. In many cases, Saudi Arabia has shown no respect for its supporters, such as its backing for ISIS and its sister organizations, its war on Yemen, and its blockade of Qatar.

Consequently, the [Iran-led] axis that refers to itself as 'the axis of resistance' is likely to benefit from Saudi Arabia's weakness. It will gain further if the Western countries were to impose sanctions or some blockade, or if economic sanctions were to be applied against it. The charge of 'Iranian terrorism' will lose credibility across the region, and Iran's claims regarding the region's security will become more persuasive. For the U.S. president cannot now talk of Iran's terrorism without speaking of Saudi Arabia's terrorism as well. He cannot tell the world that Saudi Arabia is fighting terrorism.

This is not to wager on the U.S. president's position or on the position of the colonialist countries. These parties have always been willing to disregard principles in pursuit of gains and interests. These are the same countries that have supported Arab tyranny, enabled Arab rulers to grab the masses by the throat, restrained the attempts to achieve Arab unity, and looted Arab riches. But these countries' media may now be more aware of what is happening on the Arab arena and could thereby contribute to lifting the burden of tyranny from the people's shoulders.

- Saudi Arabi's offense has left both itself and the U.S. president under siege. The U.S. president has always sought good relations with Saudi Arabia based on mutual interests – namely, protecting the Saudi regime, in return for payment to the U.S. But Trump is now in shock at what happened because his claims regarding U.S./Saudi friendship have been largely refuted. Saudi Arabia has become a liability rather than an asset for him, at least in the short run. Republican Party members are now directing harsh criticisms at Saudi Arabia, taking the president to task because of his soft stance on what happened in the consulate. Saudi Arabia has effectively undermined the position of its allies in the U.S., and the more it weakens them, the more it affects their ability to confront its alleged main enemy– namely, Iran.

- Khashoggi's murder will also weaken the Arab regimes' ability to confront their academics, intellectuals, and thinkers, who will now be more daring in talking about injustice and tyranny, thanks to the international interest in Khashoggi's case. In other words, Arab intellectuals will now feel somewhat safer because of the international and regional support they can expect if threatened. Moreover, the campaign that Saudi Arabia is currently being subjected to scares the Arab regimes that have made it their habit to 'disappear' intellectuals and journalists. The stick that has been used to whip the Arab thinkers' backs will now become lighter. In other words, the agencies of Arab repression will be weakened.

- The Zionist entity will also be harmed, especially if bin Salman disappears from the Saudi political scene. The Saudis are now trying to save the royal family and bin Salman in particular from the charges against them. However, it would appear that the world is now convinced that the sort of action that took place in the consulate could not have happened based on some initiative from outside the royal family.

If bin Salman disappears from the scene, all the Saudi measures to move closer to the Zionist entity will be severely damaged. And any deterioration in Saudi/Zionist relations will cause a deterioration in the Zionist entity's relations with a number of Arab countries.

"In other words, the process of normalization and coordination with a number of Arab countries that the Zionists have achieved, will also deteriorate," concludes Qassem.

End…

 

ROOM FOR MANEUVER: "When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses parliament about journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder and recounts the information about it, and when he does not leave that mission to the public prosecutor who is tasked with pursuing the criminal investigations based on the proper procedures, this is because Erdogan wants to give priority to the crime's political character over its criminal character, thereby giving himself room for maneuver and gaining time in the hope of reaching a satisfactory 'deal'," writes Editor-in-Chief 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on the pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.

A number of noteworthy facts emerged from President Erdogan's review, the most important of which is that he said nothing at all about Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. But he made sure to reaffirm his confidence in Saudi King Salman, and to hint that the crown prince is a lead suspect of being behind the crime and having issued the orders to carry it out, thereby distinguishing between him and his father. President Erdogan also revealed that the crime was premeditated and insisted on the need to bring the 18 perpetrators to trial before the Turkish courts.

There are three indications that confirm the claim that President Erdogan introduced a number of adjustments to his speech and removed any mention of a number of conclusive facts, especially regarding the victim's body and its location, as well as conclusive evidence found during the Turkish investigators' search of the Saudi consulate and the consul's home.

- First, CIA Director Gina Haspel's arrival in Ankara hours before President Erdogan delivered his speech. For the first time, [Turkish Foreign Minister] Mevlut Cavusoglu admitted that his country had presented sufficient information regarding the murder to its allies via the usual official channels. Ms. Haspel is thus not unlikely to have asked the Turkish authorities to 'avoid haste' and 'take their time' before exposing all the facts, especially in light of the notable improvement in Turkish/U.S. relations after pastor Brunson's release.

- Second, the phone call between President Erdogan and his American counterpart Donald Trump, one day before the former's speech.

- Third, the turnabout in the Saudi attitude towards Turkey from absolute hostility to outright courtship. Turkey has suddenly become a 'sisterly state,' and President Erdogan has become a respected Islamic leader. This all followed the phone conversation between the Saudi monarch and the Turkish leader before his speech.

Mr. Cavusoglu used his joint press conference with his Palestinian counterpart yesterday (Thursday) to say that a number of questions remain unanswered and require clarification, the most important of which concerns the party that issued the orders to carry out the murder, and the fact that no information has been provided regarding the corpse's location or the identity of the local collaborators who received the corpse rolled up in a carpet.

In turn, we may ask: If the Turkish authorities possess adequate evidence regarding the prior intention to assassinate Khashoggi, and if they presented this to the Saudi authorities that began investigating this matter – especially the claim that Saudi intelligence members arrived in Ankara ahead of time to prepare for the assassination – why were they not arrested in order to prevent it? After all, these were not diplomats but security officers – unless, of course, this fact only came to light after the crime was committed. All this requires proof and clarification.

Saudi Arabia will not hand over the suspects to Turkey. It will not allow them to be tried before the Turkish courts. It has absolutely refused to hand over those involved in the 1996 bombing of the U.S. forces' headquarters in al-Khobar who were alleged to be members of Saudi Hezbollah. And it has refused to hand them over despite ferocious American pressures. Consequently, we do not exclude the possibility that the suspects in Khashoggi case will be tried on charges of failing in their duties, covering up the crime, and hiding the evidence, after which death sentences would be issued against them that would be carried out immediately.

More than one party, led by President Trump himself, is seeking to 'wrap up' this case. But we believe that these attempts will fail because this has become a case of interest to American public opinion and in which the American media are involved, making sure to keep it in the limelight not out of love for justice, but out of hatred for Saudi Arabia and its close relations with President Trump, especially those between his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

In fact, we are beginning to read new facts regarding this relationship, with information regarding business deals. The Wall Street Journal published a report on Wednesday claiming that Trump sold apartments to the value of $40-$50 million to members of the Saudi ruling family, to say nothing of the [alleged] $460 billion [in arms and business deals] that he brought back with him after visiting Riyadh in May 2017.

Once again, we say that The Washington Post, which exposed the Watergate scandal that toppled U.S. president Richard Nixon, has called for the Magnitsky Act that requires sanctions to be imposed on foreign countries that violate human rights within 120 days. Moreover, the number of Senate and House representatives who support invoking this act is growing with each passing day.

President Erdogan, who is often described as the 'sheikh of political pragmatism,' will find himself forced to comply with the desire of a significant proportion of his supporters to expose the full facts, especially after the hardline MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) has ended its alliance with him, and the Turkish opposition is exploiting this crisis in order to ruin Erdogan's image as an ethical man who clings to Islamic principles and morals.

"But God knows best!" concludes 'Atwan.

End…

 

THEATRICAL ACHIEVEMENT: "Saudi Arabia presented its Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman's second historic achievement on the stage of the Turkish Republic's theater led by its 'Sultan' Erdogan: The dismemberment of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul," writes Talal Salman on the Lebanese website www.assafirarabi.com.

This followed the internationally-witnessed royal celebration in which (former) crown-prince Mohammad bin Nayef was arrested and isolated together with a number of bin Salman's cousin/emirs and senior businessmen [in late 2017]. That was meant to pave the way for bin Salman to be set up as Emperor of the Kingdom of White Silence and Black Gold, the same land that witnessed the birth and rise of the Arab Prophet Mohammad bin 'Abdullah who spread the message of the pure religion of Islam.

But, naturally, we should not forget to mention the incomplete achievement of the crown prince who views himself as Emperor of the Universe when he summoned Lebanon's PM Sa'd al-Hariri to a 'hunting trip,' only to imprison, insult, and isolate him from his bodyguards – until French President Emmanuel Macron intervened and insisted on seeing him so as to be reassured of his good health, after which Hariri was released and his family had to travel [from Riyadh] to Paris to meet with him.

For his part, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan complied with the 'requirements of friendship and Islamic brotherhood' for two weeks, in the hope that Riyadh would reveal what 'its men' had really done in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's body was dismembered by fifteen members of Saudi intelligence who had been sent to the consulate specially in order to carry out this 'sacred mission' just a few hours before.'

But when Riyadh clung to its narrative that its intelligence agencies were responsible for the crime in a failed attempt to absolve Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Erdogan took upon himself to recount what happened. He thereby gave the Saudi King a chance to try and absolve himself and confine responsibility for the crime to those ranking below him. But that is a difficult mission; in fact, it is impossible for the King to accept to sacrifice his son who 'sacrificed' all his uncles in order to ensure that he would be King of Kings who has neither partner nor equal.

But while some 'reward' for Erdogan may yet be possible despite its enormous cost, where will the Kingdom come up with what is needed to shut U.S. President Donald Trump up? For Trump has found in the Khashoggi case what is capable of taking him back to his glory days of reveling in the stock market. Achieving profits now is beyond doubt; but there is also nothing to prevent doubling or tripling these profits every day.

In this manner, the Kingdom has found itself caught up by Erdogan's 'growing powers.' For Erdogan – he who hails from the very heart of the Muslim Brotherhood – has found a golden opportunity to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for competing with him over the leadership of the entire Islamic world, a competitor that rules over the Holy Kaaba in Mecca (which it conquered by the power of the sword) and Medina, and the other holy sites that Muslims, including the Turks, go to seeking blessing and forgiveness for their sins.

The perpetrators who entered the consulate and took part in Khashoggi's murder and dismemberment, quickly removed his remains to the consul's home by car, and from there to nearby forests in Istanbul's suburbs, and then most likely to Riyadh – so as to ensure those who ordered the disappearance of this journalist who had recently found someone who was prepared to offer him the frontpages of the most dangerous American newspaper--The Washington Post.

Has there been a crime in history more foolish than this? Or did the planners of the crime reassure the perpetrators that no one would dare to expose them? After all, those who drop a hint that they may expose the perpetrators would have their mouth filled with gold; otherwise, steps will be taken to ensure that they would share Jamal Khashoggi's fate.

It seems that Saudi Arabia's 'high and mighty' were sure that they had sufficient gold to seal the mouths of all curious people or those enamored of thrillers and who like to wallow in the blood of victims of political assassination. But it is rare for such assassinations to be so public and to demonstrate such lack of concern for other countries, large or small, relying on the Kingdom of Silence and Gold's gilded immunity.

If we believe what the international media have been reporting quoting Saudi sources, it would seem that [senior Saudi intelligence officer] al-Qahtani is the same man who carried out Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman's orders and detained PM Sa'd al-Hariri in Riyadh for days. As mentioned above, that lasted for days and only ended after French President Emmanuel Macron, who was on an official visit to Abu-Dhabi at the time, intervened and went to Riyadh in person, where he insisted on meeting Sa'd al-Hariri to assure himself of his safety.

This crime – with its exceptional ugliness, its planning that shows no concern for other states' sovereignty and borders, and the manner in which it was carried out that disgusts ordinary human beings regardless of their political views – cannot be shelved or filed as 'unsolved.' This is not possible when eighteen men who hold senior positions in Saudi military intelligence, and who could not have carried out such an exceptional mission except at the direct orders of Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman who is now almost 'synonymous' with Saudi Arabia, have been detained on charges of carrying out a crime that is unprecedented in the public manner in which it was carried out.

This heinous crime will cost the Kingdom of Silence and Gold much of its 'credit' that was fundamentally made possible by the absence of the major Arab countries – Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Algeria – in addition to its legendary riches. This is the Kingdom that is known for carrying out death sentences against law-breakers (and opposition figures) by cutting off their heads in public so as to ensure that they would serve as an example for others.

After all, human progress cannot be imported together with planes. It is not achieved by implementing mythical plans drafted by foreign advisors on demand, in return for the gold of a prince who knows little about the world, has never recognized the people, and has never accepted any partner in decision-making, not even his father, the king. In fact, this father/king will be the first victim of his son, Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The fact is that this heinous crime will add more victims to the bloody history of this family that came to power by the sword and foreign collusion – first with Britain, then with the U.S. once the oil fields began to overflow with oil after the historic meeting between King Abdelaziz and U.S. president Roosevelt in the Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal at the end of World War II.

In short, the Saudi crown prince has beheaded the Saudi 'Vision-30' plan with the sword of his rashness and the reliance on his riches that were sadly procured by the sword and foreign collusion.

"But the exposure of this heinous crime and those responsible for planning and carrying it out may bring some some consolation for the victims of Saudi (and Emirati) savagery in Yemen, which used to be Arabia Felix before Al Saud consolidated their power in its neighboring country – always by the sway of the sword and gold," concludes Salman.

Ends…

 

2-  'Sovereign matters'

 

Syrian Foreign Minister] al-Mu'allem need feel no awkwardness in leaving 'sovereign matters' to Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara, and to each of the three states' need to engage maneuvers in pursuit of their relations with the U.S. before the summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump's on November 11th. After all, the Astana track represented the regime's surrender to the Russian/Iranian/Turkish management of the Syrian conflict based on each of its members' need for their relations with the U.S. administration. And given the exacerbating conflict between Washington and Moscow over international and regional influence, and now that Washington is preparing to withdraw from the medium-range nuclear missiles treaty, reaching an accord on the constitutional committee as a prelude to a Syrian political solution and the Syrian transitional phase has dropped to the bottom of the list of issues of disagreement between the two superpowers--Walid Shuqair in pan-Arab al-Hayat

It was clear from the very start that the U.S.-led axis of aggression will try to foil [the Sochi] conference. And if it fails to do so – which it did – it would cast doubt on the conference's results and seek to obstruct any progress towards a solution based on the conference's conclusions. There is no doubt that the conference's conclusions constitute a point of reference today. For the U.S. will be unable to bypass them or deem them to be null and void, no matter what it does. After specifying its aims and launching its proceedings, the conference adopted timetables and action plans to address all the important issues based on a new and daring vision that contains sufficient defiance, courage, and determination to make it an extremely important step forward--Ali Nasrallah in Syrian ath-Thawra

 

Together with its Russian and Iranian allies, the Syrian regime seem to have succeeded in ensuring a two-thirds majority in the committee charged with drafting the new Syrian constitution, maintains a Lebanese commentator in Saudi daily. But the regime has effectively ceded Syrian sovereignty – which it claims to hold dear – to Russia and Iran. UN Syria Envoy de Mistura has been trying to undermine the committee charged with discussing the Syrian constitution by referring to it as a consultative committee, notes a commentator in a Syrian state-owned daily. This is part of a misguided U.S.-led attempt to foil a resolution of the Syrian crisis

 

MINISTERIAL COMEDY: "It was truly comic to hear Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu'allem telling UN Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura a couple of days ago that drafting the Syrian constitution 'is a purely sovereign matter that the Syrian people will decide by themselves without the foreign intervention that some parties and states are using to try and impose their will'," writes Walid Shuqair in Friday's Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

This statement may have passed without comment had it not coincided – or shortly followed– Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Jaberi-Ansari to discuss the composition of the committee charged with drafting the Syrian constitution.

After that meeting, Jaberi-Ansari said that 'the committee's formation and its agenda have achieved the required results after long talks and consultations between the three [Russia/Iran/Turkey] guarantor states.' In fact, he went further, and declared that the three Astana track guarantors 'are seeking a suitable formula for appointing representatives of Syrian civil society in the committee,' and noted that 'two-thirds of the issues regarding the committee charged with drafting the new Syrian constitution have been resolved.'

The previous disagreement over these issues centered on how to ensure that the regime could secure a two-thirds majority in the committee by appointing representatives to one of the committee's three constituents– the regime, the opposition, and civil society. While Moscow succeeded in including figures loyal to itself and the regime as part of the opposition's representatives, which secured a majority of votes in its favor in the committee, its attempt alongside Tehran to appoint civil society's representatives was naturally intended to ensure a two-thirds majority in drafting the constitution. This would allow it to block any attempt to limit the Syrian president's powers in favor of the government, or the security agencies' subjugation to any institution other than the presidency; alternatively, it would allow it to invent presidential powers that would allow to influence the work of those agencies.

It is not strange for Damascus to belittle the work of the UN envoy who is set to retire from a mission that has lasted more than it should have, despite the fact that ever since his appointment more than four years ago and together with his team, he went too far in taking the Syrian regime's interests into consideration in most of the steps he took during all phases of Russian/Iranian/Assad triad's gradual military advances under the banner of 'de-escalation zones.

Moscow, however, should have at least tried to save some of his face. After all, by exerting pressure on him and the UN, it contributed to dragging him towards its agenda of protecting the regime and ensuring its survival, and to the Astana track, as well as distancing him from the mechanism to implement UNSCR 2254, the crux of which is to stop the regime's savage military onslaught against the opposition and against the Syrians in general, and to launch the phase of transitional rule.

The two-thirds majority in the Syrian constitutional committee is specifically Russia and Iran's share. The remaining one-third barely allows the Turkish leg of the Astana triangle to ensure that genuine opposition representatives will be present. After all, Ankara's main concerns are now focused on the Syrian North and ensuring the success of its agreement with Washington to neutralize the Kurds' weapons in Manbij via joint patrols. It is also focused on benefiting from its improved relations with the Americans.

But Minister al-Mu'allem need feel no awkwardness in leaving 'sovereign matters' to Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara, and to each of the three states' need to engage maneuvers in pursuit of their relations with the U.S. before the summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump's on November 11th. After all, the Astana track represented the regime's surrender to the Russian/Iranian/Turkish management of the Syrian conflict based on each of its members' need for their relations with the U.S. administration. And given the exacerbating conflict between Washington and Moscow over international and regional influence, and now that Washington is preparing to withdraw from the medium-range nuclear missiles treaty, reaching an accord on the constitutional committee as a prelude to a Syrian political solution and the Syrian transitional phase has dropped to the bottom of the list of issues of disagreement between the two superpowers. At the same time, it is one of Putin and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's cards, each of which will use it to promote its interests in this conflict.

Given his skill and experience, Mu'allem must understand how sovereignty can be ceded to his two allies especially since, together with Iran, the regime is proceeding with the policy of gradual conquest and demographic change in Syria, and since Moscow is allowing Iranian forces to consolidate their expansion in Syria including in those areas it had agreed with the Americans and Israelis to keep the Iranians away from. And the clear aim is to regain control of the borders with Israel and lay siege to the U.S. forces deployed along the borders with Iraq up to Deir az-Zour and in the Kurdish-controlled areas, which are being harassed every now and then.

"While the superpowers are preoccupied with 'the new strategic scene', as John Bolton has described it after meeting with Putin, the [constitutional] committee may be of some importance after its formation has been smuggled through based on Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus's interests," concludes Shuqair.

End…

 

MOSCOW'S INVITATION: "Ever since Moscow decided to issue invitations to the Syrian national dialogue conference in Sochi, the Russian Foreign Ministry has contacted all parties concerned with a solution, as well as those that do not want any solution that does not achieve their evil objectives, which they will never achieve anyway," writes Ali Nasrallah in the state-run Syrian daily ath-Thawra.

It was clear from the very start that the U.S.-led axis of aggression will try to foil this conference. And if it fails to do so – which it did – it would cast doubt on the conference's results and seek to obstruct any progress towards a solution based on the conference's conclusions.

There is no doubt that the conference's conclusions constitute a point of reference today. For the U.S. will be unable to bypass them or deem them to be null and void, no matter what it does. After specifying its aims and launching its proceedings, the conference adopted timetables and action plans to address all the important issues based on a new and daring vision that contains sufficient defiance, courage, and determination to make it an extremely important step forward.

What has happened throughout all the time that has passed since Sochi? And why is the UN, via its special envoy, insisting on seeing nothing in the conference but Washington's delusions regarding the constitution, which it shares with a group of its tools? In fact, since Staffan de Mistura is still insisting on tampering with the name of the committee that the Sochi statement clearly designated as the committee charged with discussing the constitution and not drafting it, confidence in him and the UN has descended to zero – today, tomorrow, and forever, as long as he and those operating him do not abandon the illusion that has taken over their minds.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with de Mistura on Wednesday with a single purpose in mind. Or, to be more precise, the sole title that was circulated regarding this meeting in the press was to discuss the phase that the abovementioned committee had reached – the committee that de Mistura refers to, but not by its proper name. And this means that Washington is still deluded and is still wagering on what can no longer be put on the agenda or is up for discussion.

The attempt to falsify the committee's name and tamper with its formation and representation, not to mention the attempt to grant the UN envoy powers that are not part of his jurisdiction or expertise, are all undoubtedly part of the effort to foil the committee. This is a decision that Washington took from the very start and that de Mistura continues to submit to. In fact, his successor may submit to this as well.

If it is important for Washington to heed the voice of reason and have a little wisdom at least, then all it has to do is to examine the situation in order to reconsider its erroneous calculations. But if it insists on living in denial and refuses to respect the voice of reason after having a long abandoned all wisdom, it will have to bear the consequences of its denial, refusal, and foolishness.

"At the very least, it will have learned the lessons of the Astana track's results that will converge with the conclusions reached in Sochi at some specific point – the point at which the leaf will be turned on the aggression and it will come to an end once and for all," concludes Nasrallah.

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 25.10.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Conspiracies, hallucinations, and paranoia

 

Russia is demanding Israel give it more advanced notice before carrying out airstrikes on targets in Syria, Israeli television reported Wednesday, as newly published satellite photographs purported to show the deployment of four advanced Russian anti-aircraft batteries near a suspected Syrian chemical weapons site. According to Hadashot TV, Russia is seeking to set new terms for Israeli operations in Syria and overhaul the current Israeli-Russian military coordination. Russia is insisting it receives further advance warning of Israeli strikes, the network said, though the report did not say how much. Israel usually informs Russia minutes before an airstrike. The Russian demand would likely limit Israel's freedom of maneuver in Syria, with the report noting it could endanger Israeli aircraft and allow Iranian operatives more time to hide targeted materiel. A senior diplomatic source quoted in the report said the demand was unacceptable operationally and Israel must not acquiesce to it. The report came as ImageSat International published photos showing four S-300 batteries deployed at a newly constructed site near the Northwestern Syrian city of Masyaf, where Israel has carried out raids on targets allegedly tied to Syria's chemical weapons program.

In political news, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck out at former minister Gideon Sa'ar Wednesday, accusing the once close ally from his Likud party of plotting behind the scenes to replace him as premier. The comments came after a report in the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily said the prime minister has put off moving up Knesset elections scheduled for next year amid fears that President Reuven Rivlin could task someone else with forming a government. According to the daily, the reported plot would have seen Rivlin choose Gideon Sa'ar, a popular former Likud minister seen as a potential challenger to Netanyahu from within the ruling party. Speaking at his 69th birthday party thrown for him yesterday, Netanyahu said he has been aware of the alleged scheme for weeks and jokingly called it the "conspiracy of the century." "I have known for a few weeks that a former Likud minister is talking to coalition sources and has concocted a subversive maneuver," he said, without naming Sa'ar. This was the first time Netanyahu related directly to the report about his suspicions published in Israel Hayom on Monday. Israeli coalition whip David Amsalem (Likud) said on Wednesday he would promote a bill that would limit the president's discretion in the decision on who to appoint to form a government after the elections.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed on Wednesday to maintain a permanent Israeli military force in the West Bank, saying that if it weren't for Israeli troops stationed there, Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas would be "overrun in two minutes" by Hamas. Netanyahu told a major Jewish conference that Israel doesn't have the liberty to repeat its mistake in Gaza, where Hamas violently seized control from 'Abbas after Israeli forces withdrew from the coastal strip. Asked about his vision for the West Bank, Netanyahu said he preferred to avoid labels such as "Palestinian state." But he did make clear his view that 'Abbas, known by his nickname Abu Mazen, and his Palestinian Authority owe their very existence to Israel's protection, and directly benefit from the presence of Israeli troops. "They'd be overrun in two minutes. A couple of years ago we uncovered a plot of 100 Hamas men to overthrow Abu Mazin. Overthrow? Kill him. Not kill him politically. Kill him. So, if we weren't there, they'd not be there, which is exactly what happened when we left Gaza," Netanyahu told an assembly of the Jewish Federation of North America.

In economic news, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and China's Vice President Wang Qishan on Wednesday co-hosted a high-profile trade and innovation conference in Jerusalem and toured together an exhibition of Israeli technology start-ups as the two countries worked to cement their fast-growing trade ties. A quarter century after establishing diplomatic relations, Israel and China have become important trade partners, with China emerging as an eager customer of Israeli technology. Netanyahu said that the Chinese government's choice to send Qishan, a close confidant of President Xi Jinping, to co-chair this year's Israeli innovation summit "reflects the growing ties between our countries, our economies, our peoples." Wang praised Israel as an innovation hub that China hopes to learn from as it modernizes its fast-growing economy. "Israel leads the world in electronics, information technology, modern medicine, and agriculture," he said. "China is still striving to achieve modernization."

China has become Israel's second most important export market after the United States, with exports of about $2.8 billion in the first half of 2018 – an increase of 80 percent compared to the first half of 2017. The two countries are conducting advanced negotiations for a free-trade zone, which would help Israeli exporters to compete in one of the world's growing markets, as well as help Israeli consumers benefit from low-priced consumer goods. Chinese investment in Israeli companies are important for the Israeli high-tech industry and are estimated to account an average of about 20 percent of total foreign investments in the industry. Gilad Cohen in Haaretz, writes that Israel is enjoying an unprecedented flourishing in its relations with the Far East in general, and is conducting advanced contacts to sign free trade zone agreements with Korea, Vietnam, and India. Many trade agreements were signed with the Philippines during the visit here of President Duterte, and Israeli exports to that country have doubled. Israel is looking Eastward, but the East is looking at Israel too. It sees a country that is worth investing in, where one can purchase varied products characterized by outstanding technology.

In Gaza, The Iron Dome missile fired Wednesday night to intercept an incoming rocket from the Strip was redirected after it became apparent the projectile was headed for an open field and did not represent a threat to human life, the army said. Shortly after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, a rocket was launched at Southern Israel from Gaza, triggering sirens in a number of communities in the Eshkol region, ending a week-long stretch of relative calm. An interceptor missile was launched from a nearby Iron Dome air defense battery. However, it was called off after air defense units calculated that the incoming rocket was heading toward an open field. In response to the late-night rocket attack, Israeli aircraft bombed eight Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including training bases and a weapons production facility, in the early hours of Thursday morning. The army said Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck Hamas targets in the North of the Strip and in the South, near the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah. There were no immediate reports of Palestinian casualties.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that there is no escaping confrontation with Hamas, in an interview on Army Radio Thursday morning. However, the defense establishment "must turn over every stone before any confrontation, so they will not say that I'm dragging Israel into battle because of my own agenda," he added. Neither fuel nor salaries interest them," Lieberman said. "The heads of Hamas themselves claim, 'We want to remove the siege." He said that following Hamas' latest attacks by rockets and incendiary balloons, Egyptian negotiators reached out and asked the defense establishment to provide another chance for truce talks. On Wednesday, Israel allowed Qatari-funded fuel into Gaza, even though Lieberman had banned the fuel last week until Gaza violence was halted. He claimed, however, that there seemed to be no choice but war in Gaza, adding that "anything less than the toughest response won't help anymore. We have exhausted the other options." Education Minister Naftali Bennet called for a "zero tolerance policy" for Gaza violence in an address to the Institute for National Security Studies. "The security policy of a right-wing government is first to ensure security and only then agreements."

Egypt has warned PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas not to impose new sanctions on the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official in Ramallah said on Wednesday. The Egyptians are also trying to convince Hamas to avoid taking measures that could aggravate tensions with 'Abbas's ruling Fatah faction, the official told The Jerusalem Post. Hamas leaders have told the Egyptians that they will reinstall the "administrative committee" that had functioned as a de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip until a year ago, if 'Abbas imposes new sanctions on the coastal enclave. Hamas suspended the work of the committee after it signed another "reconciliation" agreement with Fatah in Cairo in October 2017. 'Abbas had demanded that Hamas dissolve the committee as a precondition for signing the agreement. "The Egyptians have warned President 'Abbas that any sanctions on the Gaza Strip will increase tensions and result in more violence and bloodshed," the Palestinian official told the Post. On Wednesday, the Egyptian intelligence officials returned to the Gaza Strip for the second time in less than 24 hours for additional talks with leaders of Hamas and several Palestinian factions. The Egyptian delegation, headed by Ahmed 'Abdel-khaleq, director of the "Palestinian portfolio" in Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate, has also had talks with senior Fatah officials in Ramallah in the past few days. It was not clear on Wednesday whether the Egyptian officials had made any progress with regards to ending the Hamas-Fatah dispute and achieving a truce with Israel.

Finally, Israel on Thursday was bracing for its first winter storms of the season, with heavy rainfall, strong winds, and flooding expected across the country. Flash flood warnings were issued in the South, as rain began to fall in the region on Thursday morning and was expected to spread throughout the day.

 

 

NETANYAHU BEHIND CONSPIRACY THEORY: Ben Caspit in Maariv affirms that PM disseminated the story of a plot through Nathan Eshel, who tried for many days until he found an outlet. Having run out of all other options, he took it to Israel Hayom, the Netanyahu mouthpiece, where there is no editing.

"On January 14, 1993, Binyamin Netanyahu rushed to Channel 1's news studio in order to confess that he had betrayed his wife and had an extramarital affair with another woman (also married). The reason for this unusual move was Netanyahu's belief that his political enemies were in possession of a tape documenting his performances with his lover. In a telephone conversation received at the Netanyahu family's home the night before, the young wife was told that if Bibi did not step down from the primaries for the Likud leadership immediately, the tape would be released to the public. There were those who tried to dissuade Netanyahu from rushing to appear on television. Have you seen the tape? They asked. The answer was no. Has anyone you know seen the tape? No. So why go on TV? Calm down, count to ten, and see if there is anything in it.

Netanyahu heard, but did not listen. His enlarged paranoia glands threatened to explode. He was in a trance. In his memorable appearance, Netanyahu hinted that one of his rivals in the primaries for the Likud leadership, surrounded by a 'bunch of criminals,' was behind the deed. He meant David Levy. Twenty-five years later, Netanyahu is using one of Levy's former confidantes to disseminate the new conspiracy theory, the Putsch-Banana hatched by President Rivlin and former minister Gideon Sa'ar, to oust the prime minister.

Both plots never existed. In retrospect, it turned out that there was no hot tape. A midsummer night's dream, a total delirium, a hoax that caused Netanyahu to humiliate his wife in front of an entire nation on what was in those days the only TV channel, and to create a huge and juicy ruckus, with many casualties, much ado about nothing. It turns out that in the 25 years since then, not much has changed. The hallucination is the same hallucination, the paranoia has turned from neurotic to psychotic, the threats have swelled to huge proportions and control of the situation has been forever lost. The Israeli prime minister is spreading a conspiracy theory against the president and a member of his party, with no fault of their own, just because someone pressed the wrong buttons and whispered some tall tales in his ears.

A comic moment occurred yesterday during Netanyahu's birthday party in the Prime Minister's Office. He said a few words, and here is an exact quote: 'I have just come from... just something amazing. I am still thrilled by the meeting with the vice president of China; the second most powerful man in China. He has been here a few days, and I saw that the media is not interested at all, they do not care'. Here Netanyahu's voice rose, out of character, two or three octaves –to almost a shriek. 'The only thing that interests them,' he added, 'is the plot of the century, and that is all.'

You have to see it to believe it. Netanyahu, he is the man who disseminated this plot, through his lackey Nathan Eshel. Eshel toiled and sweated many days until he found buyers for the rotten merchandise in his possession. No professional journalist published the story, because none of its details could be cross-checked. In the end, they had no choice but to take it to the propaganda newspaper Israel Hayom, where there is no editing, censorship, or any obstruction whatsoever between propaganda and the printing press. After it was finally published and made waves, the first thing Netanyahu did was complain about the media's lack of coverage for the visit of the Chinaman.

What did you want the media to be interested in, Mr. Prime Minister? When a president and a former minister concoct a plot to oust the prime minister, it is a huge story. An earthquake. You spread this story. Now you complain that we were gullible enough to buy these used goods from you? And if you think it is over, you think again. Because immediately after complaining about the media, the prime minister went on to describe, in his voice, in great detail, that same 'conspiracy of the century' hatched by the 'former Likud minister' – against the will of Likud voters, the will of the public; an attempt to usurp an incumbent prime minister, etc.

To our horror, there is no one in the PM's entourage who will step up and take responsibility, put a hand on his shoulder and whisper in his ear: 'No, Bibi. Do not say that in your voice. When you say it in your voice, you justify the media frenzy, cancel everything you have said so far and raise the bar of proof to heights you cannot live up to. Remember January '93. Not every murmur that someone mumbles should become a conspiracy theory."

Ends...

 

BETWEEN INTERROGATIONS AND HALLUCINATIONS: Sima Kadmon in Yedioth Ahronoth explains how the report that the Netanyahu probes have ended and the Attorney General's decisions will be submitted before the expected date has ratcheted up the pressure in the PM's residence.

"This is a new one. A prime minister accusing the president of conspiring to oust him in a putsch attempt, and in response being diagnosed by the president as paranoid and recommended to see a psychiatrist. And all this smeared across the front page of Netanyahu's home newspaper, with the fingerprints leading like candy in the story of Hanzal and Gretel to the Prime Minister's Office.

The accusations are harsh: Netanyahu decided not to call early elections because he was informed that Rivlin, in partnership with a senior Likud member, intends to rob him of the possibility of forming a coalition. According to the same rumors, after the elections the president intends to place the task on that same senior person, and not on Netanyahu.

After Rivlin sent Netanyahu to have his head examined, the fire was aimed at another veteran enemy of Netanyahu, Gideon Sa'ar, who is also succeeding in arousing paranoia in the prime minister's home. He is portrayed as a subversive who wants to topple Netanyahu and prevent him from forming a government after the elections. Against the background of Netanyahu's current situation, the sense of persecution he is nurturing and the warm embrace he receives in Likud – it was only a matter of time until Netanyahu's fire would be directed towards his domestic rival. Signs of this have recently appeared in radio and television programs broadcast by pro-Netanyahu journalists. These same journalists fanned the flames and advanced the theory of cooperation between the 'former senior minister', as Netanyahu called him last night, and the president of the state, in an attempt to execute a coup against the prime minister.

Even if it is true – which it probably is not – that Netanyahu received a warning about Rivlin, it is clear that it is he who made the connection between Rivlin and Sa'ar and turned it into a global conspiracy. The idea that Sa'ar, who is currently outside Likud, is working together with the president to steal the premiership from Netanyahu is so farfetched that it is unnecessary to waste words on it. There was not even one member of Likud who said, publicly or privately, that he had heard something about the plot Rivlin and Sa'ar supposedly concocted. Even Yariv Levin, the man closest to Netanyahu, admitted in a radio interview that he had not heard about it.

But it is doubtful whether Netanyahu's intention, when using his newspaper to leak this ridiculous conspiracy theory, was only to hurt Sa'ar. It is far more logical that this is a spin, an experimental balloon launched to test the prevailing mood and prepare the ground for the enactment of a new law soon to be submitted to the Knesset plenum, aimed at limiting Rivlin's discretion and reducing the decisive weight he has in forming the government. This is the really important thing: The attempt by the prime minister and his lackeys to change a Basic Law – on the basis of this delusion, which Netanyahu apparently invented in his mind.

Instead of looking for traces of the conspiracy, we should try to understand why it was important for Netanyahu to make such accusations. What does he get from this whole affair? And the answer is the investigations. It always comes down to the investigations. The news that the prime minister's investigations have ended and that the Attorney General's decisions, subject to a hearing, will be submitted before the expected date has increased the pressure at the prime minister. The intention to announce elections and thus precede the Attorney General's decision – no longer seems relevant. The last thing Netanyahu wants is a decision by the Attorney General during an election period. So, less than a day after the report on the AG was published, the conspiracy theory was born."

Ends…

 

THERE IS A NEW KID IN TOWN: Yoav Limor in Israel Hayom states that Hezbollah's secret has been revealed. Mustafa Mughniyeh, son of former Hezbollah chief 'Imad Mughniyeh, who was liquidated by Israel, is initiating the organization's return to the Syrian Golan by collaborators who spy on the IDF.

"Hezbollah is busy these days establishing a new military infrastructure in the Druze village of Khader on the Syrian Golan Heights. The person responsible for setting up the organization's infrastructure is Mustafa Mughniyeh, the eldest son of 'Imad Mughniyeh, who was the organization's chief of staff and was assassinated in February 2008 in Damascus, in an operation attributed to Israel.

Hezbollah's military activity in the Golan Heights has been renewed in recent weeks. A tour along the border does not raise any suspicion of unusual activity, but Israel has learned that the organization has reestablished its military infrastructure in the village of Khader, situated about 3.5 kilometers from the fence. At this stage, this activity mainly includes observations and using equipment provided by Hezbollah to activists it is recruiting from the village who report to it.

The person responsible for this activity is Mustafa Mughniyeh. In the past, it was claimed that Mughniyeh was appointed chief of staff of Hezbollah (a position his father held until he was liquidated), but this lacked credibility, and according to information compiled in Israel, until recently he filled a major role in the organization's arms smuggling operation. Mustafa is the brother of Jihad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in January 2015 while on a tour of the Syrian Golan with other senior officials. This assassination was also attributed to Israel, after it was claimed that Jihad was responsible for establishing a military infrastructure in the village of Khader, which was engaged in terrorist activity against Israel - just as his older brother is now doing. A move to establish a similar infrastructure, led by Samir Kuntar, ended in his assassination in December 2015 near Damascus.

Since the end of the civil war in the Golan this July, quiet along the border has been maintained. The rebels have surrendered or fled, and the Syrian army controls the area. Russian military police have been deployed along the border, and the Quneitra crossing was opened – at this stage for the passage of UNDOF soldiers, who are also returning to positions vacated during the war. Israel recently warned that Hezbollah is expected to try to exploit the new reality to establish a renewed grip on the Heights. The campaign has three phases: entrenchment and intelligence gathering, transfer of weapons, and further on down the road a shift to attacks. The leader of this secret campaign is Mustafa Mughniyeh, who is following in his father's and brother's footsteps and flying the flag of resistance against Israel."

Ends…

 

BLAME IT ON THE IDF: Alex Fishman in Yedioth Ahronoth argues that Netanyahu makes threats and then advocates a moderation regarding a military solution in Gaza, pinning his restraint on the army. Lieberman and Bennett have repeatedly carpet-bombed Gaza from the air in their statements, and then accused the army of opposing them. This game has been going on for months.

"What will the cabinet ministers do when the chief of staff retires? Who will be their lightning rod in the coming winter? On whom will they pin their political frustrations? The Prime Minister shows up in the Gaza envelope, makes threats, but ultimately adopts a very moderate position regarding a military solution, because the army 'does not recommend'. He is so blessed to have an army, otherwise he would have been forced to make good on his threats against his will.

The Defense Minister and the Minister of Education, who are squabbling for the appointment of the next defense minister, have already flattened Gaza from the air three or four times in their statements in recent months. Luckily, the army 'opposes it'. Otherwise, the cabinet would have instructed the air force to carry out the dumbest move imaginable: Carpet-bombing Gaza in response to disturbances on the fence and the incendiary balloons. Now Lieberman has announced he is renewing delivery of the Qatari fuel to Gaza because the IDF recommended it. Not because it is necessary and important, not in order to prevent unnecessary confrontation, but because the army and its leaders are merciful and compassionate and cannot see the approaching winter tempest that will overcome the residents of Gaza without electricity and heaters.

Cabinet ministers have been occupied with this game for months. Time after time the army 'rescues' them from their own statements, and they present it and its chief as soft and defeatist. No cabinet ever dared to erode the image of the chief of staff and the army just to stoke dubious political maneuvering. At no point in time did the army claim that it was not prepared to carry out the order to occupy the Strip. The question asked was always: To what purpose? And that is where it ended. Even when the cabinet convened after rockets were fired at Beersheba and the sea, the army did not have to sweat too much to convince the cabinet that the firing was a result of a 'force majeure.' The story of the lightning that activated the rockets is only one possible explanation, and not the most convincing one. But the ministers gladly bought in to it, so that they would not be required to keep their rhetorical commitments to burn down the house.

The Gaza front is now ripe for a military confrontation, and is only looking for the spark. But the political aim still does not exist. The defense establishment claims the confrontation is inevitable, and there is nothing to do but try to postpone it to a more convenient time - one that will enable Israel to derive some political benefit from it. In the same vein, Lieberman's decision this week to renew the supply of Qatari fuel to the Gaza power plant is not a humanitarian move, but pure 'realpolitik'. Just as Israel reduced the scope of its activities in Syria, in order to calm the Russians down. Just as Israel refrains from bombing Lebanon, for fear of war in the North. And just as Israel does not act against threats from other countries in the region, because the Americans vetoed it. Political plays are produced in the Cabinet room, but outside the room there is a real world. This gap, between the aggressive hallucinations and the 'realpolitik' oppressing the nation, is being pinned on the chief of staff. He has been turned into a political garbage bucket and expected to shut up.

Tomorrow, an event of a similar magnitude to the one that took place last week is expected again on the Gaza fence. The demonstrations will not stop, because they are an optimal recipe that allows Hamas to display resistance for seven consecutive months without going to war. If Hamas stops the demonstrations without a real achievement, it will have a hard time renewing the momentum. Hamas will also not make do with the fuel Lieberman is sending its way: It wants the Qatari money to pay salaries to its officials. This is also in Israel's interest - that money for subsistence enter the Strip. However, Israel cannot agree to serve as a banking conduit for the transfer of funds to a terrorist organization. So what is to be done? Where is the creativity? Where is the 'Swedish official' who will arrive from Egypt with the suitcase full of money?"

Ends…

 

NEW CONSPIRACY THEORY BORDERS ON PSYCHOSIS: Yossi Verter in Haaretz claims that if the PM opted against moving up elections, it is not because anyone is out to get him but rather to avoid elections coinciding with criminal charges that might lose him the vote.

"The Prime Minister's Office has been working hard for a long time, using its close confederates, to plant the story in the media of a putsch being put together by President Reuven Rivlin against Netanyahu. Lacking any evidence, logic, realism or even the most wobbly of legs to stand on, no one could be found to buy these worthless, rancid goods. It was rejected out of hand and returned to sender.

Today, the story was put out of its misery. Netanyahu's own trumpet, Israel Hayom, came out in its main headline attributing to Netanyahu the decision to reverse his position on moving up the Knesset elections because of 'fears concerning Rivlin.' The quick response from the President's Residence attributed a mental illness – paranoia – to he who feared, giving him a referral for psychiatric treatment, was violent and jaw-dropping. Rivlin long ago lost his patience for political spin, lies and tricks that those surrounding Netanyahu have been pulling against him. Rivlin has decided to nip this stupidity while it is still in the bud. In the Prime Minister's Office, they panicked. They realized that this could be just an appetizer.

In a split-second, the missile changed direction: It was not born in the President's Residence, Netanyahu's cronies dissembled, but by a 'former senior Likud official' – in other words, Gideon Sa'ar, who allegedly spoke with someone who heard from someone else. Sa'ar quickly put out a flat denial.

This is truly the type of story that is hard to deal with using rational tools because it is so obviously absurd. The thought that Rivlin, the No. 1 democrat in the country, would start a revolt against the will of the people in the elections and grant Sa'ar the mandate to establish the next government, just because they are friends while Rivlin and Bibi are at each other's throats, is more than paranoia. It is full psychosis. True insanity.

The Israel Hayom freebie newspaper is known for loyally echoing Netanyahu's messages. If the story is true that Netanyahu decided not to move up the elections to February or March of next year, then his motive is not related to the conspiracy theory about Rivlin/Sa'ar stealing the Prime Minister's Office from him. It lies in the end of the investigative process for Case 4000, the Bezeq/Walla case, and the statements attributed to senior law enforcement officials – that this time the speed with which the decision is made whether to put Netanyahu on trial will surprise everyone involved – as reported by Guy Peleg Wednesday evening on Hadashot Television News.

What is evident from these events is that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit may very well make the initial decision on an indictment, yes or no, in the next few months. At the beginning of 2019. If the elections are moved forward, according to Netanyahu's original plan, to February or March, then Mendelblit's decision will fall during the height of the election campaign.

There is no doubt that the decision will be released, including materials from the investigation. The public will need to know who they may be about to vote for. Assuming that Netanyahu will be charged with accepting bribes in one or more cases, his chances of winning again will drop. Even if Likud, with him at its head, comes out as the largest party in the Knesset, it is very doubtful whether they will find partners who will agree to join forces with a prime minister charged with accepting bribes. It is possible he will not be able to form a government.

In this scenario, early elections are a two-edged sword. It would be better from Netanyahu's perspective for him to stay in the job for as long as possible, arrive as prime minister at the hearing with the attorney general over filing an indictment, and try to reach a deal that would save him from prison in return for his retirement from political life. Not Rivlin and not Sa'ar, the two demons, bother him at the moment, only the tidings that come from Mendelblit's office – and maybe sooner than later."

Ends…

 

THE CHALLENGE OF PRECISION-GUIDED MISSILES: Ofek Riemer for The Institute for National Security Studies asserts that if the military buildup in Lebanon is indeed a genuine strategic threat, Israel must take greater risks to confront them and prove that it is not deterred from removing the danger.

"In his speech at the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned, 'Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles.' As evidence, he presented a map showing three sites in Southern Beirut near the international airport, which Israeli intelligence claims are related to this project. The expose was accompanied by a video clip distributed by the IDF spokesperson to the media and on social networks with more information about the project, and text messages were sent to residents of Beirut. The speech, including the disclosure of sensitive information about both the missile conversion sites in Lebanon and the warehouse of nuclear materials in Iran, met with a mixed reception. Some praised the political act designed to increase pressure on Iran and Hezbollah. Conversely, some criticized the disclosure of the hard-earned intelligence material.

What is Israel's ultimate goal in the campaign against the production of missiles in Lebanon - prevention or delay? And, is the media policy, including the disclosure of intelligence, useful in attaining this goal?

The information about the project to convert rockets into high-precision missiles on Lebanese territory was first revealed in a Kuwaiti newspaper in March 2017. Already then the Israeli press hinted that Israel was behind this report. Three months later, then-Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate Chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi confirmed the information in a public lecture. The Prime Minister and senior military establishment leaders then declared that Israel regards 'gravely' the construction of factories for production of advanced weapons in Lebanon, but refrained from threatening direct military action to attack the project.

The impression is that the Israeli leadership has refused to commit itself to take direct military action to remove the threat due to Hezbollah's success in consolidating a deterrence equation against Israel, whereby an attack in Lebanon is a red line for Hezbollah. As part of Israel's ongoing campaign since early 2013 against Hezbollah's arming itself with advanced weapons, in February 2014 IDF forces attacked an arms shipment on the Western side of the Syrian-Lebanese border. In a counterattack against IDF forces on Mt. Dov (Shab'a Farms), Hezbollah acted for the first time since the beginning of the campaign to enforce the red line it had drawn. Since then, the IDF has refrained from attacks on Lebanese territory. In establishing weapons production plants in Lebanon, Iran and Hezbollah therefore presumably assume that Israel will not attack them out of concern about Hezbollah's response and the possibility of escalation in Lebanon.

In these circumstances, Israel has continued its operations against the project through air force attacks in Syrian territory – a conduit for delivery of advanced missiles and conversion equipment to Lebanon – and also probably through covert operations in Lebanon itself. In July 2017, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot claimed that Israel was 'working all the time against missile conversion in Lebanon with a set of tools that it is best to keep quiet about, and with the aim of not causing a deterioration.' Two months later, he said that the IDF had successfully prevented Hezbollah from attaining capability to launch precision missiles into Israeli territory. It appears, however, that the Israeli efforts did not succeed in delaying the project for long, and Israel accordingly resumed its use of the media to reveal additional information about the project and deliver threats aimed mostly at the Lebanese side, such as in an article published by the IDF spokesperson early this year.

The repeated use of the media indicates that Israel has likely not achieved its goals in Lebanon through other means. Furthermore, in the absence of a credible threat of military action, its use of the media indicates that Israel is deterred from acting in Lebanon, thereby signaling indirectly that Iran and Hezbollah are free to continue to carry out their plans. It therefore appears that Israel's use of the media to expose Hezbollah's operations is not aimed at those directly responsible; rather, it is designed mainly to exert pressure on the international community and the authorities and public in Lebanon. This pressure is meant to increase concern about a war between Israel and Hezbollah that will 'cause the destruction' of Lebanon, its infrastructure, and its army, and aggravate instability in the region, in the hope that the parties who are the subject of this pressure will intervene and halt the project.

Nevertheless, it appears that these efforts have not borne fruit. Even after the Prime Minister's speech at the UN, the international community is still indifferent to the issue, and refuses to use the means at its disposal to exert pressure on Lebanon. The U.S. administration is preoccupied with internal affairs and other urgent foreign policy issues (the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs, relations with NATO, and trade with China), and has left the Syrian-Lebanese theater to Russia. This is evident through Russia's expanding influence in Syria, as indicated inter alia by the orchestration of diplomatic measures aimed at reaching a political settlement of the crisis and bringing the refugees back to the country; the emerging economic and security agreements between Russia and Lebanon; and the withdrawal of American Patriot missile batteries from Jordan. The sanctions imposed on Hezbollah, including those recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, are also proving unsuccessful in exerting pressure on the organization on this issue. Europe, for its part, regards Hezbollah as an element contributing to internal stability in Lebanon, and still supplies unconditional monetary and military aid to that country. The response of the Lebanese administration, paralyzed in any case in the absence of a government almost six months after the elections, is led by Hezbollah's allies, who are helping to cover up for it, as indicated by the staged tour for foreign ambassadors conducted by the Foreign Minister and Hezbollah's partner in the March 8 alliance. The Lebanese public, including residents of Southern Beirut living in the vicinity of the production sites, has refrained from criticism of Hezbollah.

The ongoing attempts to upset the Iranian efforts to arm Hezbollah with advanced weapons, whether through kinetic attacks in Syria, diplomatic activity, or clandestine operations in Syria and Lebanon, show the difficulty in deterring enemies from force buildup (in contrast to the use of force). The repeated intelligence disclosures about the project for manufacturing precision-guided missiles in Lebanon and the public statements on the matter have failed to halt the project and remove the threat against Israel. However, the disclosure has not upset Israel's ability to take military action against the threat in Lebanon, and in all probability Jerusalem never intended to take such action. In addition, the disclosure is likely to enhance the sense among the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah that they have been penetrated by Israeli intelligence, and in this specific case may also delay the process, due to the need to move the exposed sites to alternative locations. Nevertheless, the ongoing recourse to the media has a negative impact on the image of Israeli deterrence, and reinforces the sense that Israel is deterred and does not wish to operate militarily in Lebanon.

It appears, therefore, that at this stage Israeli action is insufficient to achieve its main goal of forcing the international community and Lebanon, not to mention Iran and Hezbollah, to take action to halt the project. Thus if this is indeed a genuine strategic threat to Israel that is in the advanced stages of development, and considering the growing difficulty in taking kinetic action in Syria, Israel will have to take greater risks in order to create a credible threat and signal its determination to remove the danger. Possible means include delivering an ultimatum, with an explicit threat of military action in Lebanon, or conducting a preemptive attack on the known production sites there, even with the accompanying risk of escalation into a large-scale military conflict.

The importance that Iran and Hezbollah attach to high-precision missiles to create a balance of deterrence against Israel, which still maintains its military supremacy, and the high risk of escalation incurred in an attack on Hezbollah's military buildup that could culminate in a war that Israel wishes to avoid, require continued efforts to develop responses to the challenge of precision missiles in Lebanon. Whether Israel attacks the existing sites or whether it succeeds in generating indirect pressure that makes Iran and Hezbollah suspend the project, it cannot be ruled out that Iran's goal to arm Hezbollah with advanced weapons will remain unchanged."

Ends…

 

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 25.10.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

KHASHOGGI AFFAIR: Husnu Mahalli maintains that President Erdogan has failed to grasp the moment in opposition Korkusuz: "The Saudi royal family is the cause of all the problems in the Arab and Islamic region. President Erdogan could have saved the Muslim world from them. Someone who saves the region from these men could have made himself and Turkey the leader of the Islamic world. But that did not happen. U.S. President Trump and the Western leaders will continue to bargain a little longer. After they get their bonuses from Saudi Crown-Prince bin Salman, the case will be closed and this file will be shelved. If the U.S. and Israel have struck a deal with bin Salman and agreed that he should stay, this man will soon become king and continue to hang over the heads of the Arab and Muslim peoples for the next 40 or 50 years. Turkey would be harmed most by this."

Ibrahim Karagul insists that bin Salman will have to go in pro-government Yeni Safak: "From this point onwards, the Saudi regime cannot carry the weight of this crown prince. The U.S. cannot build a regional architecture based on a man who has been mired in the dirt and damaged to such a degree. Whether they like it or not, the U.S. and Israel, will have to let go of bin Salman. If they keep protecting him, they will lose very serious ground in the region."

Markar Esayan claims that Turkey is playing a historic role in pro-government Aksam: "The Khashoggi killing will become a weathervane regarding whether the world's states will turn into a gang of mobsters, or whether they will choose democracy with all its international laws and regulations. We all know what states did in the past during the Cold War. If the Khashoggi killing fails to become a milestone and justice is kept at bay, the vital legal element of states will rot. In brief, Turkey is playing a historic role once again."  

 

LOCAL ELECTIONS: Candas Tolga Isik detects a chink in the ruling alliance's armor in centrist tabloid Posta: "We do not know whom the HDP [opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party] will name as its local elections candidate in Istanbul. But in today's circumstances, whichever party comes up with a candidate regarded as a good alternative for Kurdish voters will win the election. With this in mind, it is clear that the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] will lean towards a candidate who has a better chance of appealing to Kurdish voters, rather than one who appeals to the [AKP-allied] MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] base."

Abdulkadir Ozcan finds a formula for the alliance in pro-Islamist opposition Milli Gazete: "It is as if there were a perception that the MHP and the AKP are about to completely merge if they were to strike another election agreement. It is almost as if a step has been taken to push the many other problems facing Turkey off the agenda. In the end, since both parties are committed to the current 'People's Alliance', they could implement a kind of unannounced alliance for the upcoming local elections as well."

Ferda Koc foresees serious trouble ahead in pro-Kurdish opposition Yeni Yasam: "The AKP's divorce process from FETO [Gulen movement] began with under-the-belt blows with intelligence chief Hakan Fidan being called to the prosecutor's office and the December 2015 [anti-corruption] operations. It ended in a bloody manner with the July 2016 coup attempt. It is hard to guess whether the AKP/MHP divorce process will take the same course. The reaction against narrowing down the MHP's space in the police, the courts and the Education Ministry – all of which it sees as its own patch – could even take the form of a FETO-style 'internal blow'. The government and the state are once again trembling on the same fault line, even though those at the epicenter are not the same."

 

Iran media watch

 

HONORING FIGHTERS IN SYRIA AND IRAQ: Iranian newspapers focused this morning on Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i's remarks praising Iranian fighters in Syria and Iraq. He said that the Arb'aeen march to Iraq (religious ceremony commemorating 40 days after the martyrdom of Imam Hussein) is safe thanks to their heroic struggle. Khamene'i made the remarks at a meeting with a group of families who lost their loved ones in battles in Syria. Reformist Ebtekar, centrist Etelaat, conservative Khorasan, and hardline Keyhan were among those carrying Khamene'i's report with photos of his meeting on their front pages. Domestic broadcast media carried reports about Iranians' pilgrimage to Iraq to take part in the Arba'een ceremony on 30 October. Channel One (IRTV1) said that over one million pilgrims have already entered Iraq.

 

SAUDI JOURNALIST'S DEATH: Another story in today's press was the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Hardline Vatan-e Emruz carried a photo of Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman and U.S. President Donald Trump and said Trump "indirectly" accused Bin Salman for being involved in the murderer of Khashoggi. "Trump: He [bin Salman] could be behind Khashoggi's death." Financial Donya-e Eqtesad wrote about "Battle between the Sultan [Turkish President Erdogan] and prince". Conservative Afkar described Trump's recent statements about Khashoggi's case as "suspicious U.S. U-turn." "Pressure mounting on Riyadh" broadcast English language Press TV as UK Prime Minister Theresa May called on Saudi Arabia to cooperate, as their explanations regarding Khashoggi's murder in Turkey lacked credibility.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Pro-regime social media users are asking Iran's Judiciary to arrest an Iranian journalist for "insulting" third Shiite Imam Hussein. Pouyan Khoshhal from Ebtekar newspaper published an article on 21 October, citing Imam Hussein's "passing-away" instead of "martyrdom". People are using hashtags (over 10,000 times) to comment on the issue. Mizan news agency, run by the Judiciary, said on 24 October that Tehran's prosecutor had brought charges against an "individual who works for a high-circulation newspaper (not exactly a description of Ebtekar) and has written several offensive pieces against Imam Hussain". The prosecutor did not name any individual or newspaper, but hardliners are talking about Khoshhal in social media. "We ask the judiciary to deal with such irreverent people decisively to prevent the repetition of such matters", posted one. "Insulting sanctities must be costly", wrote another.

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 25.10.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-Messages of peace and threats

2-To Moscow and Damascus's satisfaction

3-In the people's interest

 

1-  Messages of peace and threats

 

Bin Salman's defensive plan began with the first line of attack in Turkey. He called Turkish President Erdogan, and according to news reports, he discussed 'joint efforts to expose all aspects of journalist Khashoggi's murder' with him. After all, in addition to all his major responsibilities in the Kingdom, bin Salman has been also 'designated' [by his father King Salman] to head the committee charged with restructuring the Saudi intelligence agencies and investigating Khashoggi's murder! At…the proceedings of the investment forum (which no longer goes by the name of 'Davos in the Desert' at the request of the real Davos forum) bin Salman persisted with his plan to 'court' Turkey. He sent a very direct signal that he wants to deliver a 'message' that there will be 'no rift' between Turkey and Saudi Arabia 'as long as a King called Salman bin 'Abdelaziz, a Crown Prince called Mohammad bin Salman, and a Turkish President called Erdogan are there.' By placing his name as the 'cornerstone' of the equation that aims to prevent 'any rift', bin Salman was dismantling the formula that Erdogan – and Trump against his will – had tried to piece together, namely, one that separates the King from his crown-prince. So this was a message of 'peace,' but also a threatening one--pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi

Every now and then, the capitalist regimes' ideological and propaganda machines take up stories and incidents that lend credence to the claims of their models of government's cultural and moral superiority over other models: A rebellious girl murdered by her fanatic family; a pro-democracy opposition figure, preferably Russian or Chinese, who has been assassinated, imprisoned or tortured; domesticated dogs that are cooked and eaten; and so on. As for the millions of victims of their violation of large parts of the Southern globe, including those who are drowning before the shores of the Europe of enlightenment and human rights, their fate is to be forgotten. After all, they are not Washington Post columnists, and have no close links to the U.S. State Department or Congress. As a result, after imposing itself on the world's media space thanks to the calibrated and ongoing Turkish leaks and its adoption by influential political circles in the West, Khashoggi's case became one of the 'easy' issues that can be employed to promote the credibility of the West's claims to defend human rights and freedom of expression--Walid Sharara in Lebanese al-Akhbar

The internationalization of the issue, with Turkey continuing to control the manner in which the truth is being revealed, has helped Ankara to achieve half its objectives. It has succeeded in highlighting the Saudi narratives' lies a number of times. Moreover, Ankara's exposure of the fact that those involved in the crime are close to Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman and its proof that Khashoggi's murder was political and not criminal or security related, has helped to support the conclusion that there was a political decision to carry out this crime. This complicated management of the issue has helped to portray Turkey as a responsible and capable state so far. It has also allowed it to display its security, judicial, and political capabilities. But that on its own will not be sufficient for it to fully achieve its objectives. Moreover, it goes without saying that Ankara cannot persist with this same tactic for long--Ali Hussein Bakeer in Qatari al-Arab

 

Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman seems to have decided to go on the counter-offensive yesterday (Wednesday) in the aftermath of the Khashoggi affair, notes the editorial in a Qatari-owned pan-Arab daily. He has sought to court the Turkish president and even praised Qatar in an attempt to suggest that he is unfazed by the collapse of his international public image. Despite the human rights rhetoric invoked by the various parties waging the campaign that has turned Khashoggi's murder into a major international cause célèbre, these parties' motives have little to do with the denunciation of a crime, which pales in comparison to other crimes committed in the region, argues a Lebanese commentator. The murder is being used to promote various political agendas and uphold certain cultural assumptions about the West's superiority. Those who maintain that Turkey has struck deals with Saudi Arabia and/or the U.S. regarding the Khashoggi affair have provided no evidence of this claim, argues a Jordanian commentator. Turkey is trying to achieve a number of different objectives via its management of this affair; but it cannot achieve them all by pursuing the tactics it has adopted so far.

 

REGAINED COMPOSURE: "After Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's psychologically and visually damaging display two days ago when he offered his 'condolences' to Salah Khashoggi the son of the murdered journalist– who is banned from leaving the country – the effective ruler of the Kingdom appears to have regained his composure," writes Thursday's editorial in the Qatari-owned, London-based, pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi.

He seems to have decided to wager a counter-offensive after his international public image (which cost hundreds and perhaps billions of dollars paid to PR relations companies and political pressure groups) has been devastated, with the exposure of the vast mountain of Saudi lies about Khashoggi 'leaving' his country's consulate in Istanbul, and after the emergence of the terrifying facts about the plan to murder the man, dismember him and hide his body parts in areas that remain unknown.

This counter-offensive was launched during a meeting between bin Salman, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Lebanese PM-designate Sa'd al-Hariri, and Dubai's ruler and UAE Vice-President Mohammad bin Rashed, which was broadcast live on satellite TV. The latter three officials' songs of praise, especially Hariri's, focused on the Saudi crown prince, who was so pleased that he reminded the attendees of Hariri's detention in Riyadh [in November 2017] [jokingly] declaring that the Lebanese PM-designate 'was going to remain in the Kingdom for two more years.' In fact, he had no qualms mentioning Khashoggi, describing his death 'an ugly incident' and promising to 'hold the criminals accountable.'

All this comes at a time when the international media – especially in the U.S. – are tending towards holding bin Salman directly responsible for the murder. This was clear from U.S. President Donald Trump's statement yesterday that Saudi King Salman bin 'Abdelaziz may have not known about the operation to murder Khashoggi because the crown-prince is the country's actual ruler. (Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a similar statement in his speech on Tuesday). This explains the sense of self-confidence bin Salman tried to convey to a large extent; but it also explains why he had to take some defensive measures under pressure from the serious storm raised by Khashoggi's assassination and the collapse of the ill-conceived narrative composed by the network of powerful [Saudi] officials whom he personally manages.

Bin Salman's defensive plan began with the first line of attack in Turkey. He called Turkish President Erdogan, and according to news reports, he discussed 'joint efforts to expose all aspects of journalist Khashoggi's murder' with him. After all, in addition to all his major responsibilities in the Kingdom, bin Salman has been also 'designated' [by his father King Salman] to head the committee charged with restructuring the Saudi intelligence agencies and investigating Khashoggi's murder!

At the abovementioned meeting that was part of the proceedings of the investment forum (which no longer goes by the name of 'Davos in the Desert' at the request of the real Davos forum) bin Salman persisted with his plan to 'court' Turkey. He sent a very direct signal that he wants to deliver a 'message' that there will be 'no rift' between Turkey and Saudi Arabia 'as long as a King called Salman bin 'Abdelaziz, a Crown-Prince called Mohammad bin Salman, and a Turkish President called Erdogan are there.' By placing his name as the 'cornerstone' of the equation that aims to prevent 'any rift', bin Salman was dismantling the formula that Erdogan – and Trump against his will – had tried to piece together, namely, one that separates the King from his crown-prince. So this was a message of 'peace,' but also a threatening one.

The courtship also included Qatar, whose blockade bin Salman was one of the most eager to impose. He said that some of Saudi Arabia's neighboring countries were also proceeding towards success in their plans, and that these include Qatar, which, he said, has a strong economy. But sadly, this gesture would not have issued from the Saudi crown prince had it not been for Khashoggi's murder, in which case it will not be interpreted as fair praise, but as forced and fake flattery.

Even more strangely, bin Salman praised his own people, whom he described as a 'mighty and great nation.' But this great nation that is being promised economic miracles is the same nation whose elite has been imprisoned by the Saudi crown prince, beginning with its leading businessmen, and moving on to its emirs, academics, activists, and preachers.

"In doing so this, he not only targeted his opponents, but also those who offered him some advice or disagreed with him, even a little," concludes the daily.

End…

 

A PUBLIC CRIME: "There is no doubt that the savagery and audacity of the crime committed by the Saudi regime against its citizen Jamal Khashoggi – a public crime in the full sense of the word that was all but carried out before the cameras – partially explains the force with which broad sectors of world public opinion have denounced it," writes Walid Sharara in Thursday's left-leaning pro-Hezbollah Beirut daily al-Akhbar.

But the fact that it has turned into an international affair par excellence thanks to the positions of European and American politicians, their decisions regarding it, and its presence at the forefront of the Western media's news' reports, stems from these politicians and others' ideological and political exploitation of the incident, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The fact is that it has become an inseparable part of political strategies and is no longer merely a humanitarian or moral issue.

The 'international conscience' that some believe has been awakened by the crime's terrible nature, only exists in their fertile imagination. Its effect and that of moral values on international politics is as forceful as the influence of music or poetry. In the current international context, we are dealing with a case of the sort that can be used by a significant part of the dominant powers in order to implement their agendas, settle scores, and engage in blackmail. But it will have consequences for the Saudi Arabia's rulers first, and for the Trump administration, to a lesser degree.

Former British PM Winston Churchill's definition of a democratic regime that he introduced on November 11th 1947 remains the most widely circulating definition among Western ruling elites, both those in power and those in opposition. According to this definition, that former French PM Emmanuel Valls reminded us at the start of the French presidential elections campaign in 2016, 'democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.'

Capitalist parliamentary regimes like to present themselves to their own people and the rest of the world via this negative definition: 'Our form of government is the least bad' in light of the growing conflicts, contradictions, social discrepancies, and injustices that essentially result from their policies and their regime's working mechanisms. This is one of the main ideological bases of the capitalist countries' self-narratives, aiming to gain legitimacy by lowering the people's ceilings of demands and aspirations, and diverting their attention towards the countries that are drowning in catastrophes and wars, or that live under bloody and tyrannical regimes. The object is to lead their people towards a self-evident conclusion, namely, that they are living in paradise when compared to others.

In fact, it was no coincidence that Churchill was the man who produced this definition. He was the man whom the West views as a main architect of the victory against Nazism, which is synonymous with absolute evil in the prevailing Western discourse. He is also one of the greatest perpetrators of crimes against humanity from the perspective of international law. He supervised one of the greatest famines India had ever known leading to the death of millions, so as to break the back of its national movement demanding independence. He also ordered savage repression of the peoples of Iraq, Palestine, and Sudan and refused to his last breath grant the colonies the right to self-determination.

After his long experience at the summit of power, this cunning British politician realized the importance of such definitions in providing the ideological and intellectual foundations for a consensus at home, even if it remains weak, as long as it allows him to devote himself to the policies of control and looting abroad.

Today more than at any previous time, the capitalist parliamentary regimes need to rehabilitate their legitimacy that has been shaken as a result of their social and political crises, and the rise of extreme rightwing currents, all of which are linked to neoliberal globalization and the changes in the international economic and strategic balance of power, and the emergence of competing non-Western major powers. The deep logic of the Western narrative remains the same: We are the best thing available and what lies outside our walls are various and differing forms of barbarism.

Every now and then, the capitalist regimes' ideological and propaganda machines take up stories and incidents that lend credence to the claims of their models of government's cultural and moral superiority over other models: A rebellious girl murdered by her fanatic family; a pro-democracy opposition figure, preferably Russian or Chinese, who has been assassinated, imprisoned or tortured; domesticated dogs that are cooked and eaten; and so on. As for the millions of victims of their violation of large parts of the Southern globe, including those who are drowning before the shores of the Europe of enlightenment and human rights, their fate is to be forgotten. After all, they are not Washington Post columnists, and have no close links to the U.S. State Department or Congress.

As a result, after imposing itself on the world's media space thanks to the calibrated and ongoing Turkish leaks and its adoption by influential political circles in the West, Khashoggi's case became one of the 'easy' issues that can be employed to promote the credibility of the West's claims to defend human rights and freedom of expression.

As the famous French proverb says, 'revenge is a dish best served cold.' The analyses that belittled the intensity of the confrontation between the Saudi/Emirati axis that Egypt joined after the July 2013 coup, and the Turkish/Qatari axis that backed and sponsored the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power via elections in Tunisia and Egypt, have proven to be mistaken. The arena for that confrontation expanded to include Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and even Syria, where the conflict manifested itself in the fighting between the various Syrian opposition factions, which in some cases surpassed the fighting between the army and its allies in its violence.

This confrontation peaked with the UAE and Saudi Arabia's involvement – together with the U.S. – in the coup attempt against the Turkish president in June 2016 and the eruption of the crisis with Qatar, which according to confirmed reports, almost led to an armed invasion led by Saudi Arabia. And the confrontation was intensified with the U.S.'s siding with the Saudi/Emirati/Egyptian axis, especially after Trump's rise to power, and the deterioration with its relations with Turkey, which was beginning to be viewed by some as a Fifth Column inside NATO, after the great improvement in its relations with Russia, Iran, and China.

Erdogan had wagered on the possibility of turning Turkey – in cooperation and understanding with the major powers – into a major regional pole that can sponsor and supervise the political changes in the region that were believed to be inevitable at the time. But the opposing axis succeeded in foiling that change, in alliance with the ancient regime's forces in Egypt and Tunisia. It also received Washington's support in this in this axis's capacity as the U.S.'s major regional partner, together with Israel.

In light of the above, bin Salman's crime against Khashoggi and the catastrophic political and media effects on him represent an unmissable opportunity for Erdogan to demolish that axis's credibility before the Western powers, prove the futility of their wagers on Saudi Arabia as an allied regional pole, and to convince them to return to working with a major and responsible regional power such as Turkey.

This is Erdogan's main aim before any other – such as securing investments or backing for the Turkish Lira for example. This has been the main motive for Turkey's exposure of the crime's circumstances; and without this, Jamal Khashoggi would not have turned into a cause célèbre.

By adopting Khashoggi's case, most of the other Western – American and European – forces wanted to confound the U.S. president by denouncing his ally, Mohammad bin Salman, and by pushing him into an awkward political and media position, especially since the mid-term elections in November are imminent. Bin Salman's crime is also a golden opportunity for some Europeans – Germany for example – who have been suffering from Trump and his decisions, and for the Democratic Party in the U.S. to damage Trump's reputation as much possible as a friend and partner of bloody murderers, and cast doubt on his strategic options, namely, his alliance with the rash camp that is leading Saudi Arabia today.

"The convergence between all these political and ideological factors has led to the transformation of a savage murder, even uglier instances of which our countries sadly witness on a daily basis, into an international cause that will be employed in the service of agendas that have nothing to do with the higher ideals and values that those who are in charge of the campaigns to denounce this crime are invoking today," concludes Sharara.

End…

 

NO INFORMATION: "Much has been said over the past three weeks about a Turkish/Saudi deal and another Turkish/American deal regarding the Jamal Khashoggi affair," writes Ali Hussein Bakeer in Thursday's Qatari daily al-Arab.

But the advocates of this theory have offered no information or details to confirm the shape and content of this supposed deal. They have not backed up their theories with any logical justifications, especially at a time when the leaks regarding the case have been increasingly undermining the claims about such a deal in practice, which would require that the truth itself be murdered and the Khashoggi file be closed.

In the speech he delivered before the AKP (ruling Justice and Development Party) parliamentary bloc on Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shed light on part of Turkey's strategy regarding this issue. Even though many people may have expected him to reveal more information, his contribution remained within the confines of what he could say at this juncture, without dismissing the importance of his words.

I believe that Turkey's strategy regarding this issue seeks to achieve three objectives: First, to push the Saudis to tell the full truth regarding Khashoggi's murder; second, to undermine Mohammad bin Salman's authority since he is primarily responsible for this murder that took place inside Turkey; and third, to uphold Turkey's honor via demand that all those involved in the murder should be tried on Turkish soil.

Although it is not possible to be absolutely certain that all the reports that have been leaked so far are true, and although we are waiting for more evidence to be revealed, the tactic of using such leaks has continued to serve the abovementioned three Turkish objectives.

Another point worth highlighting has to do with the Turkish president's attempt to distance King Salman from the consequences of what has happened. On the one hand, this allows further light to be focused on Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's role as a suspect; and on the other hand, it allows Turkey to maintain a thin thread linking it to Saudi Arabia as a state.

In this regard, one could say that, had the Turkish side transformed the crisis into a bilateral Turkish/Saudi one, it would not have been able to achieve much. The most it could have done would have been to sever all relations with Saudi Arabia. But it is unclear how that could have served a judicial inquiry, for example, or how it could have helped subject Saudi Arabia and Mohammad bin Salman personally to pressure.

The internationalization of the issue, with Turkey continuing to control the manner in which the truth is being revealed, has helped Ankara to achieve half its objectives. It has succeeded in highlighting the Saudi narratives' lies a number of times. Moreover, Ankara's exposure of the fact that those involved in the crime are close to Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman and its proof that Khashoggi's murder was political and not criminal or security related has helped to support the conclusion that there was a political decision to carry out this crime.

This complicated management of the issue has helped to portray Turkey as a responsible and capable state so far. It has also allowed it to display its security, judicial, and political capabilities. But that on its own will not be sufficient for it to fully achieve its objectives. Moreover, it goes without saying that Ankara cannot persist with this same tactic for long.

"Only the possession of qualitative and unconventional evidence will help Turkey achieve its aims, block Mohammad bin Salman's path to repairing his image, and prevent any possible U.S./Saudi deal to contain the matter and seal the dossier with the least possible harm," concludes Bakeer.

Ends…

 

2-To Moscow and Damascus's satisfaction

 

The ongoing dialogue between Washington and Moscow suggests that the issue of the U.S. military presence East of the Euphrates will be resolved to Syria and Russia's satisfaction, says Silva Razzouq in today's Syrian al-Watan

 

The fact that there are clear signs that the U.S. is now ready to hold a dialogue with Russia regarding the situation in Syria suggests that the fate of the U.S. military presence East of the Euphrates will be the next major issue that will be resolved in a manner satisfactory to Damascus and its Russian ally, maintains a commentator in a pro-regime Syrian daily.

 

SIGNIFICANT IMPLICATIONS: "At an unexpected international timing and at a regional moment that seemed extremely complicated and intricate imposed by the unfolding changes produced by Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder, Moscow has come out with statements that have significant implications for the region," writes Silva Razzouq in Thursday's pro-regime Syrian daily al-Watan.

Moscow has spoken of a Russian/American understanding and successful talks with U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton regarding the Syrian dossier in particular.

The successful results that Moscow and Washington have both spoken of, and that have produced an agreement on summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump after the U.S. congressional mid-term elections, certainly did not emerge by accident. They were preceded by important regional political moves led by Moscow that seemed to pave the way for placing the Syrian file on a new political track. This was expressed by UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura's resignation at the end of next month, with the UN beginning to search for alternatives in order to coordinate with Damascus.

The region has entered a phase of intensive political activity that began with Russian presidential representative Alexander Lavrentiev's tour of Damascus and other capitals, in tandem with U.S. special envoy James Jeffrey's tour of a number of regional states and areas inside Syria. Turkey has also announced that a four-way summit will be held including Russia, Turkey, France, and Germany – with the latter two joining the numerous political tracks linked to the Syrian file for the first time. And there was also the announcement of a hasty meeting in Moscow for the representatives and foreign ministers of the countries guaranteeing the Astana track.

This has all sent a definite signal that further activity is certain, that it will take final decisions regarding the Idlib question, and will produce parallel political conditions that will impart serious momentum to the political track, of which the [Syrian] 'Constitutional Committee' constitutes the main title.

This climate was accompanied by a new American military display led by the Commander of the U.S. Central Command Joseph Votel who visited Tanaf and spoke of the U.S.'s need to remain in this area for a long time. There was also an announcement that joint U.S./Turkish patrols will take to the streets in Manbij, giving the impression that the Pentagon needs to send a number of messages to more than one party that this area is still under Washington's protection and outside any negotiations, at least for the moment.

The rapid regional developments or arrangements, that were crowned by the announcement of the success of the U.S./Russian talks in Moscow regarding 'the conflict in Syria' (as U.S. National Security Advisor Bolton described it), confirm that Washington is now ready to divulge its negotiating cards in return for receiving Russian guarantees regarding the remaining international dossiers relating to Iran, China and other issues that the administration needs at this 'awkward' American moment.

Setting aside what is being said about priorities, and although the Idlib question remains at the forefront, the most important issue that the U.S. and Russia must have discussed in Moscow was that of the area East of the Euphrates and the U.S.'s illegal presence in Syria in general. After all, and regardless of the direction the situation may take, the fate of the Idlib issue has already been determined.

The clear position regarding the next step that the Syrian state will take on the ground– namely, recapturing the area East of the Euphrates – confirm that this card has headed or will be heading the coming U.S./Russian dialogue's list of priorities. And this will take place parallel to the revival of the political track in a manner that reflects the great change in the balance of power in the Syrian state's favor. This will be manifest in the name and identity of the new UN envoy, who will, naturally, not be burdened by de Mistura's legacy and his political choices.

It would thus appear that the area East of the Euphrates will be at the heart of the coming political moves and that arranging the cards as a prelude to dealing with this issue will take the time needed to undo the knots imposed by the facts on the ground.

"The Americans' readiness for a dialogue with Moscow will impart great momentum to the effort to settle these issues in the manner that satisfies Damascus and its Russian ally,' concludes Razzouq.

Ends…

 

3-In the people's interest

 

Amman's decision to end the lease of aJordanian land to Israel is not only a popular demand, but will bring the country significant economic returns, says today's Emirates' al-Khaleej

 

In addition to its patriotic dimensions and popularity among the Jordanians in general, Amman's decision to end Israel's lease of the Baqoura and Ghumar areas will be of great economic benefit for Jordan, says the editorial in an Emirati daily. It will create job opportunities for thousands of Jordanians and increase the country's water and agricultural resources.

 

CLINGING TO THE LAND: "Jordan decision a few days ago to stop applying the two annexes regarding Baqoura and Ghumar that were signed as part of the 1994 Jordanian/Israeli peace agreement known as Wadi Araba, and that allowed Israel to benefit from these areas for a quarter-of-a-century, has reconfirmed that Jordan will not squander its sovereignty and that it is ready to deal with situations based on the interests of the Jordanian people who cling to their land," writes Thursday's editorial in the UAE daily al-Khaleej.

Ending the lease, which is supposed to officially expire on November 10th 2019, is part of Jordan's fixed principles. Jordan aims to protect its people's interests and rights, dealing with them in a manner that ascertains the state's sovereignty, especially since there is no disagreement over Jordan's sovereignty over these areas, and that it has the best arguments to defend its interests. This is why the decision was strongly applauded inside and outside Jordan, and why many observers have described it as 'an exceptional and historic step,' especially since in introducing his decision, the Jordanian monarch said that Baqoura and Ghumar are 'Jordanian territories and will remain Jordanian territories,' and that 'Jordan will exercise its sovereignty in full over all its territories.'

The decision is comprehensive and requires Jordan to enter into negotiations with Israel to end its presence in these two areas, especially since the Kingdom's legal position regarding ending Israel's lease is very strong. In fact, even the Israeli side recognizes Jordanian sovereignty.

King 'Abdullah II's decision to reimpose Jordanian sovereignty over Baqoura and Ghumar seems to be consistent with growing popular demands. In fact, one could say that it is the only acceptable decision in popular and patriotic terms. It satisfies everyone in the country's interest regaining full sovereignty over Jordan's lands in these two areas as well as other areas. There appeared to be a pressing need to end the situation imposed on these two areas by the Wadi Araba treaty.

After this decision, there has been a growing debate among the Jordanians regarding the major economic and political benefits of regaining sovereignty over the two areas, especially in agricultural and water terms. These two files have been a source of concern for the Jordanian government for some time now, especially since both areas are of exceptional importance due to their strategic and geographic location, and their fertility and underground water they contain.

One may thus understand why the Jordanian government was in a hurry to regain these two areas by begin to develop clear and speedy plans to benefit from their lands. This will enhance Jordan's economic gains and will help invigorate business activities and provide job opportunities for thousands of unemployed Jordanians, since both areas offer the government many investment opportunities. In addition, they may become a future free trade zone and an area for managing Jordan's exports and imports to Europe and other countries using the occupied Palestinian ports.

The two areas' return to Jordanian sovereignty will not be free of problems and crises with Israel, which seems to be unhappy with this step that has deprived it of the possibility of exploiting the two areas.

"But Jordan is undoubtedly aware of the consequences of its decision, and is dealing with them based on its interests," concludes the daily.

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 24.10.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

The don speaks

 

Police have finished a series of corruption investigations into Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Israeli television reported Tuesday. A decision on whether to indict the premier is expected in the next six months. "The investigations of Netanyahu have all been completed," Hadashot TV news quoted a senior legal source as saying. Investigators have been looking into suspected wrongdoing by the prime minister in three separate probes, known as Cases 1000, 2000, and 4000, which involve suspicions Netanyahu accepted gifts and favors in exchange for advancing businessmen's interests. A source in the State Prosecutor's Office quoted by the network said investigators would "surprise everyone" by finalizing their recommendations sooner than expected. The source said Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit would likely make a decision in the first four months of 2019.

In the West Bank, a Palestinian man was killed overnight in clashes with Israeli soldiers, Palestinian media reported. A riot broke out when troops entered the village of Tammun, close to Jenin, during a predawn raid. According to the IDF, some 50 Palestinians threw rocks and set off fireworks at the soldiers as they entered the village. In predawn raids across the West Bank, Israeli troops arrested 16 Palestinian suspects, the army said. They were handed over to the Shin Bet security service for further questioning. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Tuesday that Hamas is a greater threat than in the past, but added that it "fully understands" the messages Israel sends to it. "We are preparing for every scenario," Netanyahu told local activists at a closed ceremony at the Sdot Negev regional council near the Gaza border. "We are dealing with a theological junta that has taken control of two million people," he said, referring to Hamas.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's office said Tuesday evening that Israel would renew the supply of Qatari-purchased fuel into Gaza starting today, following relative calm along the border this week. Lieberman will now need the consent of the security cabinet if he wants to stop the delivery of fuel and humanitarian aid to the Strip, defense officials said Tuesday, following criticism of his actions. Earlier this month, security-cabinet members were surprised by Lieberman's decision to halt supplies of diesel fuel and gas to the Strip, contrary to the stance of the wider defense establishment. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the rest of the inner cabinet learned of Lieberman's decision in the media. Political and defense officials believe that Lieberman's position – that fuel and aid be conditioned on a complete cessation of airborne-firebomb attacks and violent protests – is too high a bar. According to defense officials, halting fuel supply could quickly worsen the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and Netanyahu and the rest of the security cabinet agree.

Elsewhere, Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas said the Palestinian National Council, which will meet at the end of the month, is expected to pass important and dangerous resolutions concerning relations with Israel and the United States, as well as Hamas and the Gaza Strip. In an interview with Palestinian television 'Abbas gave in Oman during his recent official visit there, the Palestinian president said the National Council is the highest authority and the Palestinian leadership cannot ignore its decisions. "We will discuss all the issues on the agenda including the recent decisions by the United States against the Palestinian people, such as moving the embassy and closing the PLO offices in Washington. There are signed agreements too between us and them, and Israel has violated all these agreements and because of this violation we see ourselves as freed from the agreements," said 'Abbas. 'Abbas noted that the Paris Economic Agreement, for example, needs to be rewritten after 25 years and changes in relations with Israel. "The National Council will make all the decisions, including on the issue of security coordination and economic relations. Even if such decisions will have dangerous implications it is impossible to continue with the present situation," he said. Concerning Hamas, 'Abbas rejected claims that the Palestinian Authority has imposed sanctions or other harsh decrees on the Gaza Strip. "This is not true, every month we pay $96 million to the Gaza Strip, but I made it clear to Egyptian President Sissi that this situation cannot continue after 12 years of division – and our position is still clear: Either we receive responsibility for everything or they take responsibility for everything, and this too is something that will be brought before the National Council."

Jerusalem's city hall said Tuesday that 15 municipal sanitation workers entered the Shuafat Palestinian refugee camp for the first time ever to carry out trash removal and other cleaning services, in what has been branded part of outgoing Mayor Nir Barkat's plan to expel UNRWA from Jerusalem and "end the refugee lie." The move was ordered by Barkat, who wants to outlaw the UN agency for Palestinian refugees from operating in the city and providing services to Palestinian residents in the camp which was founded in 1965 and is home to some 20,000 residents. The sanitation workers found hundreds of tons of untended garbage and construction waste. They will enter the camp daily to gradually take over what the city called UNRWA's "inadequate services." The municipality will also start to provide "far superior" education, health, and other services, to replace UNRWA, it said in a statement. While in the Jerusalem city limits, municipal workers, police, and others have never entered the Shuafat camp, which is situated beyond the West Bank security barrier, leading to charges of official neglect.

In news of Peace plans, France will submit its own plan a few weeks after the U.S. midterm elections if President Trump does not lay out his peace plan, Foreign Ministry Political Director Alon Ushpiz said Tuesday in a closed meeting. Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Ushpiz said that France was waiting for the elections, after which it would demand that Trump make his plan public, otherwise France would reveal its own plan. "The elections in November are critical for Israel. A third of the members of Congress will be replaced and it is not clear if they are all for us. We are starting from zero. We believe the Democrats will grow stronger and that will affect Israel due to their influence on Trump," Ushpiz said. Speaking of efforts to reach an agreement with Hamas, Ushpiz said: "We have been unable to persuade diplomats and government officials who have visited Gaza. In light of the humanitarian situation there, our people cannot do much. Nothing will help," he said. Ushpiz also said the move of foreign embassies to Jerusalem was a political matter that did not involve the Foreign Ministry and that the ministry had not been given the task of moving embassies to Jerusalem.

In other news, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has won an additional, $777 million contract to supply LRSAM air and missile defense systems to seven ships in the Indian navy, the company said on Wednesday. The contract is with India's state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), which is the main contractor in the project, IAI said. The LRSAM, part of the Barak 8 family, is an air and missile defense system used by Israel's navy as well as India's navy, air and land forces. With this deal, sales of the Barak 8 over the past few years total over $6 billion, IAI said. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote on his Twitter account: "This is another proof that security is an investment and not an expense. IAI is a national asset that we need to protect and strengthen." "IAI's partnership with India dates many years back and has culminated in joint system development and production," IAI Chief Executive Officer Nimrod Sheffer said. "India is a major market for IAI and we plan to ... reinforce our positioning in India, also in view of increasing competition." Israel's and India's leaders have pledged to deepen ties and the countries have been increasing cooperation in fields like agriculture and advanced technologies. Israel is also emerging as one of India's biggest suppliers of weapons, alongside the United States and long-term partner Russia. Last year, IAI struck a deal worth almost $2 billion to supply India's army and navy with missile defense systems. This was followed by a $630 million contract with BEL to supply Barak 8 surface-to-air missile systems for four ships in the Indian navy. The Barak 8 was developed by IAI in collaboration with Israel's Defense Ministry, India's Defense Research and Development Organization, the navies of both countries, Israel's Rafael and local industries in India and Israel.

Finally, a report that President Reuven Rivlin has decided to prevent Prime Minister Netanyahu from forming the next government is nothing but "baseless paranoia," the President's Residence said today. Israel Hayom reported that Netanyahu was going to immediately initiate an early election last week, when the Knesset returned from its extended summer and holiday recess. But Netanyahu chose instead to pass the controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill and keep the current Knesset intact out of concern that even if he won the next election, Rivlin would ask a different Likud MK to form the government. The report said Netanyahu revealed his fears to his close associates and Likud figures. Following those consultations, coalition chairman David Amsalem, who is close to Netanyahu, drafted a bill intended to limit the discretion of the president, who currently can ask any MK to form a government. The report said a Likud figure who is considered very close to Rivlin spoke about the idea with Likud MKs in recent days and asked for their support. The President's Residence ridiculed the report in an official statement. "We had trouble finding real information in the report other than an in-depth description of paranoia that is not based on any actual step that is happening in reality," the statement said. "Dealing with such phenomena should be left to professionals who are not spokespeople."

 

 

THE ISRAELI SILENCE ON KHASHOGGI: Ronen Bergman in Yedioth Ahronoth asserts that even if all the truth regarding what occurred in the Saudi Consulate has yet to be revealed, one thing is certain: Saudi Arabia and MbS suffered a severe blow with implications for the entire Middle East, including the country most conspicuous in its silence in the affair – Israel.

"'I wish the Turks would show the same determination in gathering intelligence and conducting the inquiry regarding Hamas and its senior representatives in the country as they do regarding the murderers of the Saudi journalist,' an extremely senior Israeli intelligence source said yesterday. His message is clear: Turkey has in the past couple of years become an active partner for those whom many in the Israeli intelligence community consider to be terrorists. In the face of Israeli information that has been sent to it time and again over the past eight years, the Turks repeatedly claimed that they had checked, interrogated – but found nothing.

The Erdogan regime has severely damaged the intelligence cooperation between the two countries. Hakan Fidan, head of Turkish intelligence, is viewed by many in Israel to be close to the Iranians and Hezbollah – that is to say, to Israel's bitter enemies. Senior Israeli intelligence officials gritted their teeth when he told them of his warm relations with Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards.

In recent years, Erdogan has prohibited Fidan from traveling to Israel, which in effect disrupts intelligence contacts between the sides at the highest levels. The results show that Saleh al-'Arouri, deputy head of Hamas and head of operations in the West Bank, operates the organization's weapons development and smuggling network from Istanbul. The Hamas scientist whose liquidation in April in Kuala Lumpur was attributed to Israel was under his command and was even supposed to fly to Istanbul the day after he was killed.

Since the murder of Khashoggi, the Turks have thrown everything at their disposal into the investigation of this horrific, failed, and terrible assassination, which in its amateurism competes with the absurd exploits of Inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther comedies. First: It turns out that Turkish intelligence had pretty good surveillance of what was happening inside the consulate. This is not an embassy, and usually such places, used for bureaucratic matters such as renewal of passports, do not justify investing time and effort in listening devices.

The evidence from the affair raises the question: Were the Saudis more amateurs or more arrogant? Beyond the fact that they carried out the operation inside their mission, when they should have guessed that it was at least under surveillance, they made so many mistakes that it is hard to believe that intelligence personnel were actually involved in them. The New York Times managed relatively easily to find perfect matches between some of the assassins and those who surround the Saudi Crown-Prince. How did it happen that these specific people were sent, even though their mere presence at the scene incriminates him as well? And if that were not enough, how could it be that they did not notice the UAV's that recorded them burning documents in the consulate yard?

Perhaps ultimately the Saudis will manage yet again to bribe their way out of this. Due to Trump's eagerness to enter into deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars with Saudi Arabia, they will probably succeed in 'convincing' him to accept their refuted version.

There is no doubt that the kingdom and especially Mohammed bin Salman have suffered a severe blow. This will have implications for the entire Middle East, including the country most conspicuous in its silence in the affair: Israel. Just as in the case of Russian involvement in the genocide in Syria, Netanyahu is keeping his distance. One might hazard a guess as to why. On the tactical level, if the reports concerning a dialogue between Israel and Saudi Arabia are correct, then it is possible that those same Saudi agents who were reportedly arrested or interrogated are the confidantes of MbS who may also be promoting his intelligence relations with foreign countries. First and foremost of them is General Muhammad Asiri, the close adviser to the heir apparent who is also likely to be the first to pay the price for the debacle in Istanbul.

The widespread implications of the assassination will be felt throughout the region. MBS's Saudi Arabia is a central component of the vision of a new Middle East of leaders such as Trump and Netanyahu. At its center is the moderate Sunni axis, which, in cooperation with Israel – and with American support – is promoting the fight against Iran, Hezbollah, Assad, and the jihadist organizations. MbS promoted this vision. But now his wings will be cut, if he remains in office and his ability to proceed with these secret moves and harness his intelligence services – and his enormous resources – against Iran and its satellites will be severely damaged. Trump will not be able to give him any more automatic support. One hopes that if he wishes again to liquidate people – say the heads of the Revolutionary Guards – he will do so in consultation with those who have some experience in the matter."

Ends…

 

NO MORE FREE LUNCHES FOR NETANYAHU: Amir Oren on Walla! points out the Jordanian announcement regarding the nixing of the land lease and the report of Trump using security aid to Israel as leverage for his peace plan, have one common denominator: No more credit. Netanyahu has amassed a debt, and now the creditors are demanding payment.

"Jordan's announcement of its intention to nix the lease of the territories to Israel and the report regarding Trump's view of American defense aid as a lever for rescuing PM Netanyahu from his entrenchment in the territories, have a common denominator: No more credit. Netanyahu, as is his wont, is spending a fortune that is not his, as if there is no tomorrow. The debt is accumulating, the creditors are getting angry, and are finally demanding the account be settled. And then, shock on Balfour Street. Has tomorrow arrived already? How is that possible? For it was not here yesterday.

This can be seen in many pieces of the puzzle, including fear of the international response to the affairs of Khan al-Ahmar and Lara Alqassem. When Yitzhak Rabin set off on his hesitant path to Oslo, there was no BDS. A quarter of a century later, when it is clear to all that Netanyahu is too weak or too frightened to advance towards peace, Israeli policy – and not the State of Israel or Judaism, as suggested by the official lie – is pushed into a defensive defeat.

Israel began the Six-Day War with a soundtrack of Moshe Dayan declaring: 'We have no goals of occupation'. Israel had no motives to hold territories beyond the Green Line and govern hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The occupation, in its professional military sense, was intended to preserve security chips that would be cashed in for peace agreements.

Over the years, Israel deluded itself that the temporary would become permanent for nothing. She awoke from her nap at noon on Yom Kippur 1973, understood the painful message and exchanged the Sinai for peace – a separate agreement, but with a Palestinian asterisk. Instead of dealing with it and arranging the Palestinian issue with King Hussein, Menachem Begin tried to be a wise guy, ridiculed his commitment – which is why Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman quit his government – and even annexed the Golan Heights and invaded Lebanon. The solution to the conflict, which was within reach as a continuation of the Camp David process, was thwarted. The debt was not deleted. Quite the opposite, it continued growing, with interest.

Since 2003, when Netanyahu was a minister in the Ariel Sharon government and a partner in its collective responsibility, Israel is committed to the road map leading to a Palestinian state. The suspicious and skeptical Sharon was convinced that Abu Mazin was a different type of leader, the opposite of Yasser Arafat, perhaps a Palestinian Gorbachev or De Klerk; but only a short year, and the disengagement from Gaza, separated Arafat's death from Sharon's stroke. The endeavor was cut short.

Netanyahu, in his smugness, believed that he could outwit everyone forever, and not only in the private, criminal context: Strive against a Democratic president without remaining just the Republicans' friend; block Abu Mazin without strengthening Hamas; sabotage the containment policy of Iran without harming other aspects of Israel's security; and obey his family members, who extorted him into radicalizing the Jordanian front without suffering a double blow from King 'Abdullah in Naharayim and Tzofar.

He encouraged Trump to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem, an empty and ostentatious move (the administration continues to oppose the annexation of East Jerusalem; the whole of Jerusalem is still registered in Mike Pompeo's foreign ministry as a separate entity), presented in advance as a one-handed clap – with the other hand slapping the Israeli face.

In his efforts to undermine the nuclear agreement with Iran, Netanyahu joined forces with Saudi Arabia. His voice, which bellowed 'Iran lied', fell silent when Mohammed bin Salman lied about the Khashoggi murder. Even the murder itself, of course, did not generate a condemnation from him, because the murderers belong to the 'good guys' and not to the 'bad guys', in the elegant division made by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, who is personally loyal to him. The Saudi lie does not bother Netanyahu, because the truth is indeed his guiding light, but sometimes he forgets to turn that light on.

Trump, Netanyahu's partner in the pragmatic attitude towards the truth, knows only one weapon – money. He will deny aid to anyone who insults or defies him. Mexico will finance the wall. His allies will suffer blows to their pockets. He is a repo man. This works both ways: If the Saudis promise to buy a hundred billion dollars' worth of weapons from the U.S. in Texas and Missouri - this is more important to Trump and his voters than some dead Arab who, to his detriment, also wrote for The Washington Post.

If Netanyahu, who enjoyed the imaginary honey Trump showered on him, should refuse to accept the sting, the president will ask Congress and the voters why the hell Israel is so ungrateful. True, the Americans have a moral obligation to prevent a second holocaust and a practical aspiration to keep Israel out of existential distress that would force it to use Doomsday weapons and create worldwide havoc, but what does that have to do with diverting the money saved in the F-35 and missile-defense gifts to building peace-foiling settlements?

The waiter is approaching bearing the expression of someone who does not want to hear again that the wallet was forgotten at home. There are no free lunches. How pleasant were yesterday and the day before yesterday. Everything was bright and carefree. And suddenly – it is tomorrow."

Ends…

 

A FORCEFUL RESPONSE TO JORDAN: Ze'ev Jabotinsky in Israel Hayom explains the prevailing Israeli view that it is better that Jordan be ruled by a Hashemite despotic monarch than a regime that represents the public. Perhaps it is time Israel examines whether this paradigm is endangering it in a changing region.

"The King of Jordan announced on Sunday that it had initiated and passed a resolution to discontinue leasing land to Israel in the Arava and in Naharayim, as stated in two appendices to the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries. The cancellation was announced by the king himself. It is clear that his goal is to weaken the peace treaty with Israel.

In response to the decision, Shimon Sheves, Director General of the Prime Minister Rabin's Office at the time of signing, said that the lease agreement was signed for 25 years, in the hope that 25 years later the agreement would be upgraded instead of annulled. The king's decision, published exactly on the day marking 23 years since Rabin's assassination, proves that agreements between states must not count on concessions concerning sovereignty – on hopes that seem realistic at the time of signing, but are gnawed by time's teeth.

In this case, time's teeth included, among other things, the expected replacement of King Hussein, but he was not replaced by his brother, who supported the agreement, but by his son 'Abdullah. The Arab spring and the appearance of ISIS to are also included in time's teeth. With regard to ISIS, its main enemy is the Hashemite King, who is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, and therefore more senior in the religious hierarchy than ISIS's leader, who crowned himself a Caliph; the successor and heir to the Prophet.

But despite all the sympathy to the King's problems, he assumes that Israel's cooperation with his regime can be taken for granted and therefore he can cause harm to Israel's citizens (in this case, the Arava farmers will bear the brunt of most of the damage), without Israel retaliating. The Israeli government now has a choice between an attempt to appease the King at its own expense, and a firm response that will preserve the agreement only in its written form.

Jordan receives from Israel much more than what was agreed on in the peace agreement. This was done out of a desire to strengthen the relationship, the hopes for which led Rabin to reach a time-limited lease agreement, according to Sheves. In the water sector, for example, the agreement stipulates that Israel will supply Jordan with 50 million cubic meters of water per year; in practice it supplies almost double that amount each year. The difference can greatly reduce the drying out process of the Sea of Galilee and the decline of the national water level below all defined lines. The decline of the level below a critical threshold is dangerous; it can cause the eruption of saline springs, whose gushing forth is prevented only by the water pressure on the plug of their opening. Once the plugs are pushed out, they cannot be returned. The salinity of the Sea of Galilee will pose a hydrological disaster for both us and Jordan.

The government should initiate an examination of the water supply process beyond what is stipulated in the peace agreement with Jordan to prevent this hydrological disaster. There is no doubt that such a serious examination will curb the Jordanian king's enthusiasm to strictly adhere to what is stipulated in the peace agreement alone, while abandoning the hopes on which it was based.

The dominant view in Israel today is that it is preferable that Jordan be ruled by a Hashemite despot than a regime that represents its people. This paradigm led Israel to intervene and abort Yasser Arafat's coup attempt in September 1970, and save the life of the Hashemite rulers. Perhaps it is time to examine whether this is not a policy that endangers us in a changing Middle East."

Ends…

 

PA VIOLATING OSLO ACCORDS IN EAST JERUSALEM: Yoni Ben-Menachem on News1 claims that since Trump's announcement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the PA has intensified its illegal activity in East Jerusalem, contravening the Oslo accords and focusing on combating Palestinians who sell lands and houses in the city to Jews.

"The sale of the Juda family home in the Sa'adia neighborhood in the Old City of Jerusalem to Jews is causing uproar among residents of the territories in the past couple of weeks. The details of the sale were revealed by the family members themselves after they sold their three-story house to a Palestinian businessman named Khalid al-'Atari, but were astonished to find out, a short time afterwards, that he transferred ownership of the house, for $17 million, to a group of Jews, who immediately moved in.

The affair is a severe blow to the status of the PA, which is perceived by the residents of the territories as corrupt and whose officials make deals with Israel, through straw men, to purchase real estate in the Old City, in the area of Temple Mount, as a precursor to an Israeli takeover of al-Aqsa Mosque. On October 13, Sheikh Akrama Sabri, the preacher of al-Aqsa Mosque, issued a fatwa that anyone selling to Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem is not part of Islam. 'We will not accept his repentance and he will not be buried in the cemeteries of Muslims' stressed Sabri.

Senior Fatah officials say that following the affair, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas ordered the Palestinian security services to intensify the manner in which sellers of land and houses to Jews are being handled, in order to distance himself from the scandal of the sale of the Juda family home in the Old City, to which his name has been linked. The task was entrusted to his close associate, General Majed Faraj, who activated his people in East Jerusalem. This week the Jerusalem police and the Shin Bet arrested two Faraj confidantes, on suspicion of kidnapping a resident of the neighborhood Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem, who is known as a mediator in land and property transactions, on suspicion that he recently sold a house to Jews in the Flower Gate area of the Old City.

He is an Israeli citizen who also carries an American passport. According to Palestinian sources, he is still being detained at the Palestinian General Intelligence interrogation facility in Ramallah. His family filed a complaint about his arrest with the American consulate in Jerusalem, but according to sources in Fatah, 'Abbas does not care what the Trump administration says or does, and he ordered the man not be released from detention. 'Abbas wants to create a policy of deterrence against sellers of land and homes to Jews in the Old City and he seems to have found a scapegoat, of whom he will make an example.

According to the Oslo Accords, Palestinian security forces are not allowed to operate in East Jerusalem, but the PA is openly violating the agreement. This is a 'cat and mouse' game between the PA security forces and Israel Police and the Shin Bet. Residents of East Jerusalem say that in the past year, following President Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the PA's security forces in the Eastern part of the city have increased their activity, threatening residents daily and summoning them to interrogations. They also distribute money to Fatah merchants and activists to strengthen 'Abbas's status in East Jerusalem. However, the kidnapping of the Israeli citizen who carries an American passport is an extremely grave incident, and the PA is obliged to release him immediately under the Oslo Accords. Such an incident has not occurred in East Jerusalem for many years.

Some 18 years ago, Yasser Arafat ordered Jibril Rajoub, then head of the Preventive Security Service, to kidnap the merchant 'Abd al-Salam Hirbawi from East Jerusalem, after he defied Arafat's order to transfer a plot of land under his ownership in the Old City to the Coptic Church. Hirbawi, an Israeli citizen, was kidnapped to Ramallah, but Israel refused to accept this. A closure was imposed on Ramallah and it was surrounded by tanks, in order to prevent Rajoub's men from transferring the kidnapped Hirbawi to Nablus. The Israeli pressure worked, and Hirbawi was released from his detention in short order.

It is time for Israel to wake up and deal sternly with members of the Palestinian security services who violate the Oslo Accords in East Jerusalem in order to strengthen 'Abbas' status. 'Abbas is now trying to scare the residents of East Jerusalem, so that they will not sell lands and houses to Jews, in an attempt to foil Israel's hold on East Jerusalem. Anyone who foments war, should get war thrown right back at him. Israel has many tools to thwart 'Abbas's people in East Jerusalem, such as the use of administrative orders, or their legal removal from the city. The battle for Jerusalem is in full swing and it is time to play hardball."

Ends…

 

ERDOGAN MILKING KHASHOGGI PROBE: Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz argues that the Turkish president may have only revealed a couple of new pieces of information in his speech, but the underlying message of his new-found power over a Middle East rival was clear.

"Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the leader of a government that has jailed more journalists than any other in the world. Yet he opened the section of his speech devoted to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with condolences not just to his family and friends, but to the 'media world' as well.

Interestingly, he said nothing on Tuesday about Khashoggi's work as a journalist, his criticism of the Saudi leadership and his support for a brand of political Islam similar to the one Erdogan himself has championed. Erdogan did not show much emotion or outrage and, despite promising the 'naked truth,' did not add much to what was already known.

The two new pieces of information Erdogan supplied during his weekly parliamentary speech to party members were that an advance team of Saudis scouted out possible burial sites; and that the hard drive of the surveillance system at the consulate in Istanbul was removed in advance of Khashoggi's murder. These items were specifically picked to blow away what is now the official Saudi version that Khashoggi's death was somehow the result of a rogue operation gone wrong.

He held back, however, on what the Turkish authorities know about what actually happened behind the consulate's walls. Was this because Erdogan did not want to reveal how Turkey has been monitoring goings-on within the building? Or is he simply keeping the information in reserve to subtly pressure Riyadh. The Turkish president did not just leave out the grisly details of the murder itself. He did not mention any names either – save that of King Salman, who he addressed respectfully as a fellow leader.

This was not the same Erdogan who often viciously attacks his rivals with angry slurs. He was speaking with all the politeness of a mafia don informing his victim, 'I know where you live.' He paid utmost respect to the king, repeatedly using his full title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. But there was no missing the menace. The man everyone has been talking about whom Erdogan did not mention was Crown-Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But it was clear to whom he was referring when he said that the question of who gave the orders would have to be answered, and that justice would have to be done 'at the highest levels.'

Erdogan ended the Khashoggi chapter in his speech with a polite but firm demand of the Saudi king that the 18 men allegedly involved in the murder be put on trial in Istanbul, where the crime took place. There is no question of that ever happening. The Saudis, under the terms of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, are not obliged to extradite the alleged perpetrators – and they certainly have no intention of allowing any foreign authority to question them and reveal who actually gave the order.

Erdogan's message to the Saudis, and to the other governments he alluded to in his speech (Egypt and the United Arab Emirates), is that he plans to milk the Khashoggi murder for all he can. He has been gifted an unexpected lever of international pressure over the Saudi-led camp in the Middle East, which has been defying him since the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi in 2013. He will not relinquish that lever anytime soon.

The presidential press office will have informed him of the unprecedented global attention around his speech Tuesday, and that the direct broadcast by his government's English-language TRT World broke its ratings record. Erdogan may be one of the world's biggest suppressors of free journalism, but he now has control of a media cause célèbre. To keep the media interested, he will make sure to either leak or deliver further speeches with any more information he holds."

Ends…

 

HEZBOLLAH VIOLATION: The Jerusalem Post's editorial says that Hezbollah is clearly gathering intelligence and waiting for the opportunity to attack Israelis. The UN must take action.

"News that Hezbollah has captured a bird of prey and is holding it as a suspected Israeli spy is periodically creating local headlines and raising smirks. But what happened this week might shed some light on the Hezbollah way of thinking – and it is no laughing matter.

On Monday, the IDF announced that it had uncovered an observation post used by the terrorist group about a kilometer from Israel's Northern border. It was the sixth such post discovered in the past couple of years. The Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization had sinisterly tried to conceal the intelligence gathering post as a birdwatching station for a non-existent environmental NGO called 'Green Without Borders.''

Like the Hamas terror tunnels spreading from Gaza toward and into Israeli territory, there is nothing innocent about the activity. Hezbollah, like Hamas, is funded and supported by Iran; both terrorist organizations have a history of kidnapping and murdering Israeli soldiers and citizens.

The hidden Hezbollah post was located in the village of al-'Adeiseh, just across the border from Kibbutz Misgav Am. Nobody in the kibbutz needs a reminder of the cost of terrorism. In 1980, five Palestinian terrorists crossed the nearby border and penetrated the community and held hostage a group of toddlers sleeping in the then-typical kibbutz 'children house.' A two-year-old and an adult kibbutz member were killed in the attack, along with an Israeli soldier who was participating in the rescue.

Hezbollah's cynical use of a fictitious environmental group as a guise for intelligence gathering is yet another flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms to end the month-long Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. The resolution bans any military presence South of the Litani River except for the Lebanese Army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

A senior official in the Northern Command was reported as saying, 'Hezbollah is building military infrastructure along the border with armed men moving there and watching the Israeli border. This is military infrastructure in civilian guise... The objective is to gather intelligence on the border.' As the Jerusalem Post's military correspondent Anna Ahronheim noted, the phenomenon is well known. In February, the Post reported that UNIFIL peacekeepers accused Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army of hampering their work. The UNIFIL forces were denied access to a location in a Southern Lebanese village by three men wearing military-style outfits who had left a mosque bearing a 'Green Without Borders' flag.

Such actions make a mockery not only of Resolution 1701, but also bring into question the role of UN peace keepers in the area in general. UNIFIL publications stress that its main focus has been on 'restoring international peace and security' with the functions of an observer and monitoring mission. According to UNIFIL's own website, under the terms of Resolution 1701, the UN Security Council authorized UNIFIL to 'take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind. It should also resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council.'

What is the point of observing and monitoring without taking any action? That UNIFIL is watching Hezbollah but not acting on what is sees, or not capable of acting, only encourages the terrorist organization. It also gives the wrong message elsewhere in the North, where United Nations Disengagement Observer Force peacekeepers are meant to be safekeeping the border between Israel and Syria. UNDOF only recently resumed its full activities there – having fled, with the help of Israel, following a series on kidnappings and attacks on its members by Islamist terrorist groups that took over the area in 2014 during the ongoing Syrian civil war.

The time has come for the international community to ensure that UN forces carry out the job they were sent to do: Preventing hostile activity. Hezbollah is clearly gathering intelligence and waiting for the opportunity to attack Israelis. The United Nations cannot say it did not know; if it does not take real action to prevent an attack, the UN will be complicit in it."

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 24.10.18, SECTION C (TURKEY & IRAN)

 

From today’s Turkish press

 

KHASHOGGI AFFAIR: Ertugrul Ozkok adopts a cynical stance in center-right Hurriyet: "So what will happen now? The Khashoggi affair has ruined the image of the [Saudi] crown-prince, who U.S. President Trump personally tried to portray as a reformist. But we should not forget that the Middle East is a region of despotic leaders who continue to rule despite the horrible images. In other words, nothing will come of this. Unfortunately, the rules of the Middle East apply. In this region, life goes on as if nothing has happened. Brutality is the law of the jungle in the region."

Emin Colasan claims that the president is making unachievable demands in nationalist opposition Sozcu: "President Erdogan said nothing new about any phase of the Khashoggi murder case in his speech yesterday. He satisfied himself with offering a summary of events laced with slogans, accompanied by chants from party cheerleaders especially brought to parliament. He also laid out two demands: Firstly, that the Saudis should reveal the name of the local accomplice who allegedly buried the body. Secondly, that the 18 Saudi citizens – in other words the execution squad – should be tried in Istanbul. Because he knows that neither is going to happen, he had to end by saying 'it is within their [the Saudis'] discretion.'"

 

THE PEOPLE'S ALLIANCE: Mehmet Barlas asserts his faith in the current ruling alliance in pro-government Sabah: "In President Erdogan's words, maintaining the same line on fundamental issues such as structuring the new administrative system does not require being on the same page on all issues. In brief, the AKP [ruling Justice and Development] and the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] have recently adopted different perspectives on matters such as a criminal amnesty, early retirement, and the students' oath. However, this does not mean that the 'People's Alliance' is over."

Yalcin Akdogan takes a similar view in pro-government Star: "The attitude towards the ruling alliance of a leader such as Erdogan – who makes all kinds of self-sacrifices for the good of the country, drinks poison if necessary, and never betrays or lets anyone down – should be perceived correctly. MHP leader Bahceli's sincere efforts for the alliance and in favor of a change in the political system are also well-known. Not formally cooperating in the upcoming local elections does not entail dismissing the wider agreement."

 

ATATURK'S LEGACY: Baris Doster invokes Turkey's founding father in nationalist opposition Cumhuriyet: "The Court of Cassation's decision regarding reading out the Students' Oath in schools has created a new debate. Ataturk's definition of 'who is a Turk' and the Turkish nation is very clear and contains no references to race or ethnic origin. When defining the Turkish citizen, he said: 'How happy are they who call themselves Turk.' He prioritized the foundation of the Republic while defining the Turkish nation by saying: 'The Turkish people who founded the Republic of Turkey are together called the Turkish nation.'"

Kazim Gulecyuz takes aim at the opposition in pro-Islamist opposition Yeni Asya: "Because the government appears to be more eager than anyone else to claim the official old rhetoric and its symbols, it continues to send strange messages in that direction. It is as if it was trying to say: 'We are the best supporters of Ataturk'. And when the government takes such a stance, the opposition parties are delighted. Is this how one sends the message that 'we [the opposition] are the address that you have been searching for' to all the people who are looking for an alternative?"

 

Iran media watch

 

FOOTBALL CLUB VICTORY: The Iranian Persepolis football club advanced to the finals of the AFC Champions League 2018 on Tuesday in a breath-taking game. The team advanced to the Asian finals in a 1-1 draw with al-Sadd of Qatar in Tehran in the presence of thousands of enthusiastic fans. Most Iranian newspapers carried reports on their front pages this morning on Persepolis reaching its first-ever AFC Champions League final. Conservative Kelid wrote: "Arabs' respect for Persepolis." Reformist Arman dedicated its entire front page to jubilant footballers and fans and wrote: "Advancing to the finals emptyhanded", referring to FIFA's transfer ban imposed on Persepolis for two transfer windows in 2018. Hardline Javan and conservative Hemayat carried photos of yesterday's match on their front pages. In the previous match, Persepolis defeated the Qatari team in Doha 1-0. The final result was 2-1 to the advantage of the Iranian club.

 

IRANIANS CROSSING INTO IRAQ: Domestic broadcast media, including Channel One (IRTV1), Radio Iran (VIRI), and IRINN led their news bulletins with reports related to the Arba'een religious ceremony to be held in Iraq on 30 October. According to reports, up to 1.8 million Iranians have registered to take part in the pilgrimage to Iraq, of whom 1.5 million have already received visas and 950,000 have already crossed the border from Mehran and other border checkpoints. VIRI said that 420 flights would be added to regular flights to Najaf to facilitate pilgrims travel. IRTV1 showed Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi saying that borders are secured and his forces arrested members of three "terrorist teams" in the Southern Khuzestan Province. He was visiting a border checkpoint in the province.

 

KHASHOGGI: English-language Press TV led with a report on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying that his country has some evidence that dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death was planned. Erdogan demanded that all "18 people" behind the murder be brought to justice. In another development, U.S. President Donald Trump blasted Saudi Arabia's efforts to cover up the killing of Khashoggi as the "worst cover-up ever", but again indicated that he would not end arms sales to Washington's Middle East ally. Rolling news channel IRINN carried a report saying that many invitees have pulled out from the Future Investment Initiative conference that started on 23 October in the Saudi capital of Riyadh following the death of the Saudi journalist inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Over 13,000 people on Twitter and many others on Instagram and Telegram celebrated the victory of Iranian football club Persepolis in the semi-final match of AFC Champions League. "I've always said that passion wins matches, Persepolis proved once again that no matter what difficulty they have to overcome, they will triumph," a user posted in English. Elsewhere, over 17,000 Tweets were posted in 12 hours referring to a call for "civil disobedience of a million men and a general strike". The call was made by members of the newly-established opposition Farashgard (also known by their English name Iran Revival). "We believe that the current regime is destroying our country by its anti-Iran policies. We must act now to prevent any further destruction," a user wrote in English. Another user Tweeted: "We can change if we want. Long live freedom and democracy."

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 24.10.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)

 

1-Taken to a new level

2-Not-so-deserted Davos

3-De Mistura departs

 

1-  Taken to a new level

 

Erdogan has become the cornerstone in this case that will continue to develop for a long time to come. Winning his favor, in order to secure information or reach possible political compromises or come up with a suitable production, will become the aim of politicians East and West: Both those who want to save bin Salman and those eager to denounce him and get rid of him. Today, whether he likes it or not, Erdogan is the man who, together with others, – the first and last of whom will be the Americans – will decide whether the entire region will be forced to cohabit for decades with a man who gets away with a heinous crime that will continue to pursue him as a curse throughout his rule, or whether the heinousness of what happened will lead Saudi Arabia, the region, and the world to soon get rid of a symbol of savagery who was in a rush to rise to the throne, and whose barbarity toppled him before he could fulfill his desire--Mohammad Kureishan in pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi

If Erdogan was trying to gain sympathy by describing the tragic nature of the case, the Kingdom has officially declared that the crime was heinous and that it absolutely rejects it. And if he is showing his concern for justice, the Kingdom has very firmly confirmed its very same concern before his speech. This being the case, Erdogan's speech offered no new information. Erdogan stressed that he believes in King Salman's good intentions and his cooperation in a case where the investigations are not yet complete. However, he dropped hints regarding the operation's planning. We know who he has in mind and what he means, even though the Kingdom has denied that its leadership knew anything about the case… in one way or another [Erdogan] confirmed Turkish policies towards the Arab region whose center of gravity and main weight are represented by Saudi Arabia. His speech, therefore, had nothing to do with the Jamal Khashoggi case-- Hammoud Abu-Talib in Saudi 'Okaz

Erdogan seems unlikely to waste this 'crime/opportunity.' There are many files open in the world and the region where Saudi Arabia and Turkey are engaged in a tug-of-war: From Syria to Iraq to Libya to Yemen, to a number of countries in the Horn of Africa. Today, the Turkish president has kicked the ball rolling into the Saudi pitch, and specifically to the King, who finds himself under pressure to respond to Erdogan's speech. The Saudi King has a number of options. So, will he produce a fourth narrative that undermines the three previous ones? Or will he belie Erdogan, who has declared that he has more information in his bag and that the case's file is not yet closed? Or will he admit to guilt at higher levels? Be that as it may, it appears that the Khashoggi affair has been taken to a new level, and that the Saudi monarch has realized the enormity of the step that he must take if he is to stand his ground--Hamza al-Khansa on www.alahednews.com.lb

 

While some people may have been disappointed and others relieved by Turkish President Erdogan's speech on the Khashoggi affair yesterday (Tuesday), it is too early to reach a final conclusion as to Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman's ultimate fate, argues a Tunisian commentator in a Qatari-owned pan-Arab daily. Erdogan has not absolved bin Salman of the crime, but is leaving it to the crown-prince's American friends to denounce him and get rid of him, while simultaneously strengthening his own position as a major leader. Erdogan's speech was devoid of any new information regarding the Khashoggi case, but it did include an illegal demand for the investigation to be internationalized and the accused to be tried in Istanbul, maintains a Saudi commentator. Consequently, it was a political speech that dropped unsubstantiated hints that the Saudi leadership was implicated in the crime. Erdogan hinted that he has evidence that other countries are involved in the Khashoggi case, notes a Lebanese commentator in a pro-Hezbollah news portal. This may confirm that he is trying to secure concessions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as well as detained figures and clerics in Saudi Arabia; but he is also trying to promote Turkey as best qualified to lead the Islamic world.

 

DISAPPOINTMENT AND RELIEF: "All those who were expecting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech yesterday to detonate a real bomb that exposes all the facts regarding Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder in his country's consulate were certainly disappointed," writes Mohammad Kureishan on Wednesday in the Qatari-owned, London-based, pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi.

By contrast, all those who feared that the speech would deliver the coup de grace to Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman must have breathed a sigh of relief, after all the blows and bullets that have been fired at him by his U.S. allies before anyone else.

But neither the former's disappointment nor the latter's sigh of relief is appropriate. The former were more optimistic than they had cause to be, while the latter will not enjoy their current relief for long. In short, Erdogan's speech did not quench the thirst of those who wanted it to be the final word that would bring the curtain down on this case's mysteries by ultimately pointing the finger at Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Moreover, however, Erdogan failed to satisfy the unfounded wishes of those who hoped his speech would close the case's file and absolve the Saudi political leadership based on certain political calculations or political pressures.

In the coming phase, Erdogan will be operating in this precise zone that separates between those who were disappointed and those who were not totally relieved, and in a manner that will either intensify the disappointment or shrink the sense of relief. He will continue to move between these two extremes, further aggravating both sides' nerves, until the picture becomes completely clear.

The clearest thing that emerged from Erdogan's speech was that the Saudi narrative regarding what happened in the consulate is totally unconvincing as far as Turkey's leadership is concerned, even if the Turkish president did not say this openly and frankly. For he did confirm that the entire operation was prearranged and preplanned, and that it was no mere deviation in a benign attempt to convince Khashoggi to return to his country.

It was never likely for the Turkish president to be the first to offer conclusive evidence that the Saudi leadership was behind this heinous crime. Yet he did not slam the door in the face of such a conclusion. For one thing, he did say that accusing Saudi security officers of being responsible for the crime 'does not reassure either us or the international community.' He also said that the Saudi authorities must expose all those involved in the crime 'from the lowest to the topmost rung of the ladder.' And since we now know who stands on the lowest rung since they have been exposed, we must now wait to see who really stands at the top.

Erdogan has become the ultimate destination of all those interested in the investigation. The first are the Americans whose politicians and security officials have begun to visit him in succession.

Erdogan was most likely to have been deliberately inconclusive in his speech. He neither stated that the Saudi leadership – namely, the Saudi crown-prince – was definitely implicated in the crime, nor did he absolve it of this charge that has been hanging over the leadership's head in a manner that borders on certainty. In fact, Erdogan may have deliberately avoided accusing the leadership directly, leaving this mission to the Saudis' friends – Americans and Europeans – to fulfill. After all, their statements would be more effective and carry greater weight, especially when they come from senators and senior security officials, most of whom present themselves as having been Riyadh's friend and among its staunchest defenders before the consulate crime.

It is not in Erdogan's interest to be at the forefront of an official denunciation of Mohammad bin Salman. For if that is where the investigation is finally heading in line with the well-studied [Turkish] leaks to the media, why bear the weight of such a conclusion if it is going to emerge naturally from the course of events? Why should he be at the forefront of this scene that could completely ruin his country's relations with the entire Saudi state?

The other no less important matter is that Erdogan did not deliver his speech so as to put an end to the 'one-drip-at-a-time' method that Ankara has adopted in dealing with this case ever since it erupted on the scene. He is most likely to persist with this approach, as between one drop and the next, he can benefit by repairing some relations here or there, or extending a line of communication with one party or another. As a result, he will be – or rather already has become – the ultimate destination of all those interested in the investigation. And the Americans, who have begun to inundate him with their politicians and security officials' visits at the highest levels, are the first among them, as evident from the fact that the head of the CIA arrived in Turkey on the eve of Erdogan's speech!!

Erdogan has become the cornerstone in this case that will continue to develop for a long time to come. Winning his favor, in order to secure information or reach possible political compromises or come up with a suitable production, will become the aim of politicians East and West: Both those who want to save bin Salman and those eager to denounce him and get rid of him.

Today, whether he likes it or not, Erdogan is the man who, together with others, – the first and last of whom will be the Americans – will decide whether the entire region will be forced to cohabit for decades with a man who gets away with a heinous crime that will continue to pursue him as a curse throughout his rule, or whether the heinousness of what happened will lead Saudi Arabia, the region, and the world to soon get rid of a symbol of savagery who was in a rush to rise to the throne, and whose barbarity toppled him before he could fulfill his desire.

"To quote the French daily L'Humanité, the question regarding bin Salman is: Will he lose his throne after losing his mind?" concludes Kureishan.

End…

 

ANTICIPATION AND EXPECTATION: "The anticipation that preceded President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech yesterday led the world to await his words with great expectation," writes Hammoud Abu-Talib in Wednesday's Saudi daily 'Okaz.

This was especially due to the fact that the media had reported that he would be stating the 'naked truth' regarding the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi – an issue that Turkey has deliberately and continuously leaked reports about in an attempt to transform it into a matter of international concern and mobilize public opinion with the object of confronting the Kingdom with a predicament before the world.

We expected Erdogan to surprise us by revealing new information consistent with the level of excitement that was created before his speech. But that did not happen. Instead, all that Erdogan said had already previously been in the news. In fact, the Saudi Public Prosecutor's official statement included more details and revealed more important facts than Erdogan. All that Erdogan did was to review what happened, while all the time including the hidden feelings in his scenario that are taking this dossier in a direction that does not serve the main issue [Khashoggi's death], and does not promote the interests of common relations between the two countries.

Erdogan knows that the preliminary information regarding the case was reached by the joint Saudi/Turkish team, which he confirmed the Kingdom had agreed to form after he had called King Salman, who welcomed his proposal. Erdogan also knows that the Kingdom has revealed what its preliminary investigations have concluded. He also knows that the Kingdom will not rest until all the investigations are complete and all those implicated in the crime are held accountable and are brought to justice.

So, if Erdogan was trying to gain sympathy by describing the tragic nature of the case, the Kingdom has officially declared that the crime was heinous and that it absolutely rejects it. And if he is showing his concern for justice, the Kingdom has very firmly confirmed its very same concern before his speech. This being the case, Erdogan's speech offered no new information.

Erdogan stressed that he believes in King Salman's good intentions and his cooperation in a case where the investigations are not yet complete. However, he dropped hints regarding the operation's planning. We know who he has in mind and what he means, even though the Kingdom has denied that its leadership knew anything about the case.

Moreover, even though the Kingdom's investigations have yet to reach their final results, Erdogan demanded that a neutral committee pursue these investigations – in other words, he called for the internationalization of this issue. He also expressed his desire for the accused to be put on trial in Istanbul. These two demands represent the crux of the speech. They represent Erdogan's real aim, even though they are legally erroneous and inappropriate in view of the case's circumstances and conditions.

In short, Erdogan delivered a party-political speech before his parliamentary bloc that was part of the power game. It was also political, and in one way or another it confirmed Turkish policies towards the Arab region whose center of gravity and main weight are represented by Saudi Arabia.

"His speech, therefore, had nothing to do with the Jamal Khashoggi case," concludes Abu-Talib.

End…

 

JUSTIFIABLE ANXIETY: "The Saudis waited anxiously for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speech," writes Hamza al-Khansa on the Hezbollah-affiliated news portal www.alahednews.com.lb.

Their anxiety was justifiable in light of the 'theatrical' manner with which the Turkish media announced this speech. Moreover, the Saudis are certain that the Turkish president's bag contains much evidence proving that the 'idea' of murdering the journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was endorsed by the narrowest circles close to Saudi Crown-Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The Saudi tension peaked a few hours before Erdogan's speech as manifest in Saudi Foreign Minister 'Adel al-Jubeir's hasty message in the form of a press conference in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, promising that his country 'will never repeat what happened with Khashoggi again.'

Meanwhile, the Turkish president delivered his first speech since October 2nd [when Khashoggi disappeared in the Saudi consulate] dealing with the Khashoggi case. True, he said nothing more than what al-Jazeera, Reuters, and The Washington Post have all been reporting regarding the Saudi journalist's murder. But it is also true that his speech transported the information that has been circulating for two weeks from the category of 'media leaks ' to that of the 'official Turkish narrative.'

With that narrative, Erdogan demolished the entire logic that Saudi Arabia has been trying to promote via its media and its journalists over the previous two weeks. According to this logic, Saudi Arabia is a 'victim,' and the murderers were 'lone wolves' who have nothing to do with the ruling family; moreover, Khashoggi was killed 'by mistake.'

Erdogan extended the angle from which this case is being viewed. He set bin Salman aside as someone who cannot be trusted, and endorsed King Salman as the sole authority in this case. In short, Erdogan's aim was to impart momentum to the current that has begun to take shape around the world, and that calls for finding an alternative to the current rash crown-prince. From the Turks' perspective, the matter is not confined to redirecting the focus towards the King and setting the crown-prince aside.

It also consists of opening other tracks for the case that go beyond Turkey as the land where the crime was perpetrated, and beyond Saudi Arabia as the country of whom the perpetrators are citizens. For Erdogan's claim that Khashoggi's murder is a political crime and that there are those implicated in it who hail from other countries and must be included in the investigations opens the door to various possibilities and complex phases and solutions. But Erdogan did not shut the door to the Saudi monarch; on the contrary, he proposed that those involved should be tried in Turkey.

There are those in Turkey who viewed Erdogan's position as tantamount to 'collusion' with the Saudis in Khashoggi's murder. For example, the main opposition CHP (Republican People's Party) demanded steps such as the Saudi ambassador's arrest and severing relations with Riyadh. The CHP's radical demands naturally stem from being in opposition to the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party), which means that it is lying in wait to exploit any opportunity to promote its opposition to the ruling party.

But the 'Erdoganists' view the entire matter from a different angle – one that allows them to expand the horizon that allows them to 'invest in the crime' and its many tracks. This is the context in which to view Erdogan's talk of other countries being involved, and that can be better understood if the leaks of 'a package of preconditions' that he has set for settling the Khashoggi case prove to be true. Among the most important of these conditions is the release of tens of Muslim Brotherhood leaders imprisoned in Egypt, primarily former president Mohammad Mursi, as well as the release of a number of social figures and clerics detained in Saudi Arabia.

Erdogan's sees the Khashoggi case as an 'opportunity' to demonstrate Turkey's qualifications and the uniqueness of its experiment as 'a leading moderate Islamist state.' It is this precisely that led Erdogan to say on October 15th – two weeks after Khashoggi's death – that 'with its historic heritage, geographic location, and cultural heritage that has ensured that the various creeds could live together in peace in all times, Turkey is the only state that is able to lead and guide the entire Islamic world.'

Erdogan seems unlikely to waste this 'crime/opportunity.' There are many files open in the world and the region where Saudi Arabia and Turkey are engaged in a tug-of-war: From Syria to Iraq to Libya to Yemen, to a number of countries in the Horn of Africa. Today, the Turkish president has kicked the ball rolling into the Saudi pitch, and specifically to the King, who finds himself under pressure to respond to Erdogan's speech.

The Saudi King has a number of options. So, will he produce a fourth narrative that undermines the three previous ones? Or will he belie Erdogan, who has declared that he has more information in his bag and that the case's file is not yet closed? Or will he admit to guilt at higher levels?

Be that as it may, it appears that the Khashoggi affair has been taken to a new level, and that the Saudi monarch has realized the enormity of the step that he must take if he is to stand his ground.

"A few hours after Erdogan's message, the King's response came in the form of a statement issued by the Saudi cabinet that confirmed the Kingdom's determination to hold all those who had failed in the Khashoggi case accountable 'whoever they may be,' and its determination to 'adopt corrective measures that will not stop at bringing those directly responsible for the Khashoggi incident to account," notes Khansa in conclusion.

Ends…

 

2-Not-so-deserted Davos

 

Despite the Western boycott of Riyadh's 'Davos in the Desert', Russia and China were there in force, and Mohammad bin Salman appears to have been untouched, says 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on today's pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com

 

Saudi Arabia's 'Davos in the Desert' forum went ahead yesterday, despite boycotts from many Western companies and banks, notes the editor-in-chief of an online pan-Arab daily. Crown-Prince bin Salman's attendance at the event and the lack of any new evidence regarding the Khashoggi case in the Turkish president's speech yesterday suggest that some sort of deal may have been struck behind the scenes and that bin Salman will remain in power.

 

ANOTHER RITZ CARLTON EVENT: "It is ironic for Saudi Arabia to hold the 'Davos in the Desert' international investment conference in the same Ritz-Carlton Hotel where Prince Mohammad bin Salman held around 350 Saudi businessmen including 13 emirs prisoner, the best known of whom was the famous billionaire al-Walid bin Talal," notes Editor-in-Chief 'Abdelbari 'Atwan on Wednesday's pan-Arab www.raialyoum.com.

According to reports, Prince bin Salman forced the detainees to pay some $30 billion from their own monies and fortunes that they were accused of having amassed via business deals marred by corruption.

Many countries, such as the UK, France, Germany, and Holland cancelled their finance ministers' participation in this conference in protest against the official Saudi role in journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder. But U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said that he had cancelled his participation, arrived in Riyadh, met with Prince bin Salman, and discussed the means of developing the two countries' economic cooperation with him.

President Donald Trump's fears that China and Russia may conclude huge business deals with Saudi Arabia to the value of tens of billions of dollars may not be misplaced. Companies and delegations from the two countries dominated the conference. We cannot exclude the possibility that the U.S. treasury secretary's visit to Riyadh and his meeting with Prince bin Salman was meant to discuss this issue and to guarantee the American arms' deal that is estimated at $110 billion for this year alone.

Showing less concern for Khashoggi's death, President Putin wishes to accept the official Saudi narrative and to guide his actions based on the official information regarding this crime, according to which no members of the ruling family – specifically Prince Mohammad bin Salman – are involved in any of its episodes.

This Russian statement of innocence aims to side with Saudi Arabia as it faces its most serious crisis in the hope of securing a greater share of its business and arms' deals, especially since Prince bin Salman has visited Moscow more than once and has expressed his interest in the Russian S-400 missile system, as well as in acquiring 15 nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes. Consequently, by participating in this economic forum and preferring it to the cabinet meeting from which he was absent, bin Salman wanted to deliver a message to the U.S. that Russia and China are ready to fill its place.

Saudi commentator Turki ad-Dakhil, who is close to Prince bin Salman, had Tweeted that the response to any American sanctions on Saudi Arabia would be to establish a Russian base in Tabuk (in Northwestern Saudi Arabia) and to purchase Russian missiles and warplanes. But the Saudi authorities distanced themselves from this Tweet and its content.

The new Pakistani PM Imran Khan, who presented himself as the champion of the poor and promised a different Pakistani foreign policy that ends his country's submission to any regional axes, summarized his participation in the forum by telling the British daily The Independent that while he is sorry for Khashoggi's death, his country 'needs money', which is why he headed to Riyadh. And he was proven right when he was rewarded for his visit and participation by being given three billion dollars, as Saudi Arabia announced yesterday.

We said it before and we repeat it today: Money and business deals take precedence over human rights and values. This is why many have rushed to take part in this conference and exploit the absence Western banks and companies' officials and directors, in the hope of getting a slice of the Saudi financial cake.

But we do not know where the Saudi leadership will find the hundreds of billions of dollars that will satisfy all those who are presenting their beggars' bowls to it. Its financial reserves, which were estimated at some $750 billion four years ago, have evaporated or are close to doing so, thanks to its intensive armament projects and the Yemen war that costs Saudi coffers close to $9 billion every month, according to the Brookings Institution. Moreover, the Saudi budget deficit has been standing at around $90 billion on average over the past three years.

Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who wants to transform Saudi Arabia into the world's largest investment base, was wagering on the privatization of part of ARAMCO. But that plan has been postponed or canceled because Trump wants the money to be invested in the American financial markets or New York's Wall Street stock exchange. The Saudis are unhappy with that, since these monies could be frozen at any moment, especially if the JASTA act is implemented or economic sanctions are imposed on Saudi Arabia.

Proceeding with the Riyadh investment conference with the participation of Crown-Prince bin Salman despite the fact that many people believe that he is behind Khashoggi's murder confirms that he will remain as the actual ruler of Saudi Arabia, and that all is well and he has suffered no harm.

Moreover, the fact that Erdogan's speech to parliament on Tuesday was devoid of any new and documented evidence, and that the victim's corpse has not been found, suggests that some sort of permanent or temporary 'deal' may have been struck.

"But God knows best," concludes 'Atwan.

Ends…

 

3-De Mistura departs

 

Like his predecessors, UN Syria Envoy de Mistura has finally given up, but the real problem stems from the UN's growing impotence, says As'ad 'Abboud in today's Syrian ath-Thawra

 

UN Syrian Envoy Staffan de Mistura's resignation was no surprise, nor was the fact that he has not achieved much in his mission, says a commentator in a Syrian state-owned daily. This reflects the UN's general weakness and irrelevance, and the false assumptions on which it has based its approach to the Syrian crisis.

 

REACHING A DEAD END: "The man [de Mistura] has made up his mind to resign and he has set the date for that," writes As'ad 'Abboud in Wednesday's state-run Syrian daily ath-Thawra.

For he has reached a dead-end, just like his predecessors Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Anan.

The natural question is this: Why do international envoys to Syria reach a dead-end somewhat quickly and largely without achieving any results worth mentioning, when the goal of their mission is to find some sort of solution? Why is that so?

I believe that the international envoys' failure is closely linked to the UN's broader lack of success, not only in Syria but elsewhere. The envoys' missions are part of this international organization's activities, and the UN secretary-general chooses them after consultations with various parties. But the problem is that the UN's role in resolving the world's pending and dangerous issues has continuously been shrinking and on the retreat.

For what is the UN's role in Yemen or Libya or Palestine? What role does it play in the collapse of a large number of international agreements? What is its role in binding governments to international conventions and agreements? What role does it have in dealing with international and other sorts of crimes? What role does it play in any of these issues?

The UN has been impotent ever since the Cold War between the two major camps. Its impotence increased during the phase of American hegemony. In fact, the U.S. has continuously stressed the UN's limited role in all its international political behavior. For the U.S. views the UN as an institution that was based on World War II's results. And since the multiplicity of victors, which specifically included the Soviet Union, was one of these results, U.S. administrations now believe that this institution is longer of any use, no matter how submissive it may be to Washington's desires.

If that is the state of the UN, what can be expected from its envoys?

In Syria's case, the UN's policy has been based on a mistake ever since it began to deal with the events that have developed into a multi-faceted and compound war with catastrophic results. Moreover, in light of the Western and Arab pressure on Syria and what happened in the case of other countries including Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, it behaved towards Syria on the assumption that it was going to fall soon. And the UN failed to see anything wrong about dealing with Syria on this basis, going so far as to back Western military strikes against it, or at least remaining silent in response to them. Nor was it embarrassed about about its shameful positions regarding what happened in Libya.

In general, and at the very basis of the manner in which the UN viewed Syria – if one can use such terms – was a stance that treated a Syrian force that rules the country and a foreign force that was demanding power equally. It failed to take into consideration that ruling power's true character, its position, and its role in the Syrians' and Syria's life. The truth is that the international envoys repeatedly submitted to a logic whereby they were in fact parties to the conflict rather than mediators.

"If Mr. Secretary-General is searching for a new envoy on the same basis, there is no doubt that his mission will face the same fate," concludes 'Abboud.

Ends…

 


MIDEAST MIRROR 23.10.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

'I can be tough with Netanyahu on the peace plan'

 

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he is willing to "be tough" on Israel in peace negotiations, mirroring the administration's combative stance toward the Palestinian Authority, according to an Israeli report Monday. Such a move would mark a significant shift in the U.S. approach to peace talks so far, which has seen a number of concessions to Israel and punitive measures against Ramallah, stoking Palestinian anger and a boycott of efforts to jump start peace talks. According to a Channel 10 news report, which cited four Western diplomats with knowledge of the matter, Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron that he was prepared to pressure Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to accept the administration's long-gestating peace initiative, once it is unveiled, mirroring pressure already leveled against the Palestinians.

"I have given a lot to Netanyahu. I moved the embassy to Jerusalem… We give Israel $5 billion a year. I can be tough with Netanyahu on the peace plan, just like I have been tough on the Palestinians," Trump reportedly told Macron on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September. It is unclear where the $5 billion number comes from. The U.S. currently gives Israel $3.8 billion annually in defense aid as part of a memorandum of understanding. When Macron told the U.S. leader that he was under the impression that Netanyahu preferred the status quo over making progress on a peace deal, Trump allegedly replied: "You know, Emmanuel, I am very close to reaching that same conclusion." The reported comments to Macron took place three days before Trump, during a meeting with Netanyahu at the UN, said he favors the two-state solution to the conflict, seemingly signaling a reversal in the administration's previous refusal to endorse the formula.

Responding to the report, a White House official told The Times of Israel that "the president believes that the prime minister is committed to pursuing a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians." Trump, the official added, "has faith in the prime minister's efforts."

Meanwhile, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said Monday that a "reasonable" Palestinian leadership will be willing to negotiate with Israel based on the Trump administration's peace plan, when it is eventually unveiled, and said the status quo was "not acceptable." "If there is a reasonable leadership and there is a reasonable plan, then they will come to the table," U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law told CNN during an interview at the channel's "Citizen CNN" conference. He also claimed the administration had made progress on Middle East peace, without providing details, and said leaders on both sides would need to make concessions.

In Jordanian-Israeli relations, Jordan will not negotiate with Israel to renew part of the 1994 peace treaty that granted the Jewish state use of two small agricultural areas along the border, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Monday night, dashing hopes in Jerusalem that Amman could be convinced to reverse course. Speaking to a local Jordanian news channel, Safadi insisted that the Hashemite kingdom would not renege on King 'Abdullah II's promise to take back control of the areas that Israel has been allowed to lease for the past 25 years. "We will not negotiate over the sovereignty of these areas," Safadi said of Naharayim in the North and the Tzofar enclave in the Southern Arava desert.

In Gaza, Hamas appears to be scaling back mass protests along the Gaza/Israel frontier as Egypt renews its efforts to broker a cease-fire. Only a few hundred people joined a beach demonstration near the perimeter fence in Northern Gaza on Monday; a much smaller turnout than previous weeks. The Gaza Health Ministry said 20 protesters were wounded by Israeli fire. The march took place as Egyptian mediators were in Gaza for cease-fire talks. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday that he does not believe in the possibility of reaching a long-term ceasefire arrangement with Hamas, emphasizing that nothing short of striking the group with “the hardest blow” is going to improve security in Southern Israel.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad may not have intentionally fired the two rockets at Be'er Sheva and central Israel last week. Security Cabinet ministers told Ynet on Monday the government decided against launching a military operation in the Gaza Strip following the rocket attack because Israeli intelligence determined, with a very high degree of certainty, that the rockets were fired due to a malfunction caused by the lightning storm that raged on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday. According to one minister, there was indication Hamas and Islamic Jihad were embarrassed by the incident and even exchanged accusations before realizing the rocket launches were the result of a malfunction. "We acted very responsibly," the minister explained. "It wasn't right to go to war because of the weather." He stressed that despite the tensions on the Gaza border, Israel continues giving a chance to efforts by Egypt and the UN to reach an arrangement between Israel and Hamas.

Elsewhere, a human rights report released Tuesday accuses both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas of routinely engaging in unwarranted arrests and systematic torture of critics, suspected dissidents and political opponents, and of developing "parallel police states" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively. The 149-page Human Rights Watch report, which is based on interviews with 147 witnesses, details a common method of abuse and torture used both by the PA and Hamas in which detainees are placed in painful physical positions for lengthy periods of time. Such practices cause distress and trauma to detainees, while often leaving "little or no trace on the body," the report said. The widespread occurrence of such brutality indicates that "torture is governmental policy for both the PA and Hamas," HRW stated.

In other news, Ynet reports Mossad Director Yossi Cohen warned of Iranian expansionist aspirations in the Middle East in a rare public speech on Monday. One of Israel's main objectives, he said at a budget conference held by the Finance Ministry, "is to push Iran out of the rest of the Middle East. It has a strong presence on the Lebanese border thanks to Hezbollah; it has a strong presence on the Syrian border. And it is establishing itself more and more inside Iraq – both politically and militarily. Inside Iraq, we can see the Iranians operating exactly as they are in other areas of the Middle East, by turning to the Shiite population." Cohen explained that the Iranian takeover of Iraq could lead to Tehran's vision of a "Shiite Crescent" from Iran through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. "Creating a Shiite territorial contiguity is possible for them," he said. He said other countries in the region share Israel's views of the Islamic Republic, with "some even defining Iran as their central existential threat, something the world should be aware of and deal with accordingly."

Israel Hayom reports that Iran is building factories for manufacturing and upgrading missiles in Iraq. The pro-government daily reports that the intense activity in Iraq enhances the Iranian effort to establish itself in Syria and is coupled with an attempt to build a missile factory in Lebanon. According to the report, Israel does not rule out the possibility that as a result, Iraq will also enter the circle of conflict, but is fearful such a development could threaten the stability of Jordan.

Finally, in diplomatic news, Prime Minister Netanyahu hailed ties between Israel and China as he met with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan for a working dinner in Jerusalem on Monday. "This is the most important visit by a Chinese leader in the last 18 years. It is a sign of our growing friendship," said Netanyahu. "The fact that the Vice President of China came to Israel at my invitation for the Prime Minister's Innovation Conference is a tremendous compliment to Israel and a reflection of the growing ties between China and Israel. I look forward to our discussions." Wang arrived in Israel Monday for a four-day visit focusing on high-level talks on economic cooperation.

 

 

ISRAEL WAITED UNTIL IT WAS TOO LATE: Giora Eiland in Yedioth Ahronoth suggests that prior to King 'Abdullah's announcement it was possible to reach a compromise through discreet dialogue. But the problem was not identified in time, because the foreign ministry and National Security Council are dysfunctional.

"Ostensibly it seems that the latest Jordanian move – the King's decision not to renew the agreement to lease the territories to Israel – came as a complete surprise to us, out of nowhere; a thunderstorm on a clear day. I do not like to quote myself, but I will deviate from my practice and quote from an article I wrote more than a year ago, following the tension with Jordan over the Temple Mount events and the incident in which an Israeli security guard shot dead an innocent Jordanian citizen. I concluded the article by saying: 'For many months now, there has existed a situation whereby if the prime minister himself does not lead diplomatic activity, nothing happens. Talented as he may be, it is not possible to conduct foreign policy in this manner. The Jordanian debacle is just another example of this.'

More than a year passed, and lo and behold – we are faced with yet another crisis, with similar features. There are two deep reasons for the current crisis, which go beyond the specific factors that caused Jordan to decide as it decided. One is the weakness of any Israeli institution, which is not a security organization and is not the prime minister, and – in the Jordanian case – at least three institutions.

The first institution is the Foreign Ministry. The crisis with Jordan about a year ago, the fragility of the peace agreement with it and Jordan's strategic importance for us, all required special attention. In my article, I recommended that the ambassador to Jordan be a person of exceptional political and security status, who would be able to be in direct contact with the King and with the most senior officials in Israel. This did not happen. The second institution is the National Security Council, whose first task is to determine the agenda of deliberations in the government and Cabinet. I am not sure this is the case today. There are too many tactical discussions on Gaza, while less noisy but more important issues are neglected. The third institution is the Ministry for Regional Cooperation, 80 percent of whose activity regards Jordan.

None of these institutions identified the problem, even though the Jordanian desire not to renew the lease agreement has been at the center of