MIDEAST MIRROR 31.10.18, SECTION B (THE ARAB WORLD)
1-A heroic posture
2-Khashoggi one month on
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.