There was a strong expectation in Israel yesterday once the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire terms were announced that Hamas was going to accept the deal. Even after Hamas rejected the terms and launched 80 more rockets at Israel yesterday morning, some prominent voices, such as former Israel national security adviser Giora Eiland, were predicting that Hamas would ultimately accept the deal today.
Tag Archives | Egypt
When the bodies of three Israeli settlers – Aftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 – were found on June 30 near Hebron in the southern West Bank, Israel went into a state of mourning and a wave of sympathy flowed in from around the world. The three had disappeared 18 days earlier in circumstances that remain unclear.
In 2011, NATO allies, beaming with victory, left the newly remade state of Libya hardly stopping to think of the post-revolution consequences that faced the distraught and unprepared African country as it began its uphill battle to establish democracy. Indeed, in times of trouble, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron would often think back to the Libyan intervention as his ‘happy place.’ In most European circles, the Libyan war is heralded as a success, with many leaders giving themselves a round of applause over the way their nations managed to come together and unseat the deplorable Gaddafi and bring ‘power to the people’ to forge their own destiny.
As Hamas continues firing rockets (and allowing other groups to fire rockets) at Israel from Gaza, and Israel responds with airstrikes, people are beginning to wonder how this round of fighting will end. During Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, a ceasefire was brokered with U.S. and Egyptian intervention – and we can debate all day about how much Mohamed Morsi himself had to do with that, although my sense is that his role was overstated – but this time around such intervention does not seem to be coming.
Two recent events focus increased international attention on Morocco. First, nine activists from Morocco’s February 20 pro-reform movement were granted bail at their appeal hearings this week. They had been jailed last month under charges of chanting anti-regime slogans and clashing with police during a protest. The activists had been arrested on April 6, while attending a mass rally in Casablanca called by the trade unions. The rally was called in protest to the austerity measures enacted by the government of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane. The demonstrations were attended by some 10,000 people.
The French Revolution, according to Albert Camus, produced no artists but did give birth to two cultural notables. In fact, he goes so far as to say that they were the only notables: a gifted journalist by the name of Camille Desmoulins; and the under-the-counter-writer, the Marquis de Sade. The only poet, he stressed, was the guillotine. How disturbingly fitting then, that Desmoulins found himself the subject of the guillotine alongside Georges Danton in 1794, the victim of false charges. The word, like a cruel joke, did eventually kill him.
Irrespective of how one feels about the direction taken by various Arab revolutions in the last three years, a few facts remain incontestable. Arab revolts began in the streets of poor, despairing Arab cities, and Arabs had every right to rebel considering the dismal state of affairs in which they live. Few disagree with these two notions. However, the quarrel, in part, is concerned with the cost-benefit analysis of some of these revolutions, Syria being the prime example. Is it worth destroying a country, several times over and victimizing millions to achieve an uncertain democratic future?
“Political Islam is a product of modernity as much as a response to it.” – Mohammed Ayoob
Islam emerged in elitist and starkly divided tribal societies that had over time corrupted the prevalent status quo. Beginning as a movement rallying for greater inclusiveness, unity and equality under the umbrella of one god regardless of lineage, wealth, age, or gender, it quickly transformed into a uniting factor for different tribal groups that ousted the classist beliefs and practises of the hierarchical and powerful Bedouin tribe in Arabia.
It served as an active call for addressing the social and economic problems prevalent at the time; political for those who wielded power and influence, empowering for those who had none. Islam’s origins were driven by ideals of justice and egalitarianism, rejecting the prevalent inequalities in the distribution of power among humans. Despite the evolution of Islam, Islamic ideals, Islamic objectives, and Islamic principles throughout history, questions pertaining to governance, legitimacy, the rights and duties of the ruler and the ruled, and the conditionality of the allegiance has, and continues to remain an issue of concern to Muslims, and Muslim societies.
As Egypt’s former defense chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approaches his expected presidential victory, he faces a myriad of issues that threaten his office. While many claim the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) poses the largest threat to Egypt, the country’s economy also illustrates worrisome concerns. For the past three years, the Egyptian economy has been struggling since the country emerged from the post-Mubarak revolution. Public debt has been aggregating, businesses and households face harsh conditions due to daily power blackouts, and the country’s energy shortfall will be exacerbated with the coming summer months. Unemployment and economic stagnation has continued to plague the country since Mubarak was deposed.
With the current unemployment rate at 14%, and the number nearly double among the young section of society, the country is facing a restless youth who is disenfranchised with the current course of the economy. Frequent labor strikes further cripple already paralyzed sectors such as public transportation and healthcare. With a mild growth rate around 2.1% for the last fiscal year, the country shows bleak prospects of growth. One of the country’s longest financial bases, tourism, has seen a precipitous drop in comparison to its pre-2011 heights. Wary international investors, halved foreign currency reserves, and a strained national budget continues to plague the country’s prospect for future growth.
“In Yemen today, the US embassy is closed to the public. Officials telling CNN there is credible information of a threat against Western interests there,” a CNN news anchor read the news bulletin on May 08.
This is CNN’s Yemen. It is a Yemen that seems to exist for one single purpose, and nothing else: maintain Western, and by extension, US interests in that part of the world. When these interests are threatened, only then does Yemen matter.
Perhaps the most perplexing element of the ongoing (and going and going…) Israeli and Palestinian conflict is that nearly every effort to bring resolution is met with the same stubborn fate of failure, despite changes in players, interests, contexts and environments over the last 60 years.
As this latest attempt ends with more of a whimper than a bang, it is worth asking, was this conclusion forgone from the beginning? Is another outcome ever possible? We suggest that the best way to answer this is to examine the three primary parties involved in the newly ended talks and we contend that the reason for the failure – and perhaps another year’s success – lies less with lines on a map and more with perceptions of strategic reality.
The Israeli Story
We can begin the discussion with Israel, a state increasingly internally divided about the role citizens should play in the future of the state. Right now, of course, Israel is led by Likud Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu – a man who has traditionally favored a hawkish and conservative approach to the so-called peace process, and who has more recently been a vocal supporter of a two state solution. However, Netanyahu is increasingly at the mercy of the ideologically opposed but strategically aligned Jewish Home and Yesh Atid parties whose continued support determines the sustainability of Netanyahu’s governing coalition. The Jewish Home and Yesh Atid fundamentally disagree about what role Israel should play in the peace talks.
A plethora of pundits, lawmakers and think tanks continue to criticize the Obama administration for presiding over what appear to be persistent failures in the foreign policy arena. Whether it is Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Russia, or China, the administrations’ opponents are quick to attack the perceived lack of meaningful progress. What they tend to forget, of course, is that most of what they are criticizing the administration for is either partly, or completely, outside its control, that much of what is happening today has its roots in pre-Obama history, and that no single country or leader calls the shots in our G-zero world. The world no longer snaps to attention when America acts.
To no one’s surprise, the Israel/Palestine peace talks collapsed – just like all the bilateral talks that came before them. At least unlike during his first term, Obama made the issue a priority in his second term and John Kerry gave it a shot. Given the twists and turns of the Syrian conflict, one has to wonder where the U.S. would be today if the Administration had listened to the inside the conservative lawmakers who wanted to jump into the fray at the outset. Obama wisely refused to fall into that trap.
Across the street from my cousin’s apartment in Rod al-Farag, an area of Cairo’s popular Shubra district, hangs a large banner depicting the late Coptic Pope, Shenouda III.
The caption is not a quintessential spiritual saying, or biblical quote, but a message directed at the Muslim residents of the area. “To all Muslims” the note reads, “thank you for your support in times of grief.” Comparable signs of harmony were voiced during Shenouda’s funeral, three days after his passing. In a tribute to the deceased Pope, a senior cleric said, “it is because of him that we have national unity with our Muslim brothers.”
The words recollected the efforts Shenouda had made to bolster interfaith ties in the country. One of the measures he carried out during his pontificate was a ban preventing the Copts from visiting Jerusalem. “Except with our brothers the Muslims, following its liberation [of Jerusalem].” Conversely, at the same time of his passing, violence against Egypt’s Christians was on the rise again. The broad union, that had unified Muslims and Christians in the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, also, has mostly ended.
An Interfaith panel and several Muslim organizations are upset over the film, The Rise of al-Qaeda, depicting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attackers as Islamic jihadists. They do not want the world to believe the hijackers that carried out the heinous attacks against the United States were linked to al-Qaeda, a radical Islamist movement founded by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1987. The 9/11 Memorial Museum, as per their website, represents “An educational and historical institution honoring the victims and examining 9/11 and its continued global significance.”
Nineteen jihadists were responsible for the 9/11 attacks–fifteen came from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Lebanon, and one from Egypt. Osama bin Laden, the planner, was indoctrinated by Wahhabi preachers–a fundamentalist Sunni Islam sect– having its origins in Saudi Arabia. Killing of infidels had become a justifiable act in the teachings of the Wahhabi doctrine. Osama bin Laden’s hatred of the United States took root in 1991, when the Saudi monarchy invited the U.S. to use their soil as a staging area for the military incursion into Kuwait to oust Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces. Bin Laden was upset that the Saudi government would allow American boots on their soil. As a result he declared a “jihad” against the United States, stating it was not permissible for infidels to step onto the sacred soil of the “Land of the Two Holy Mosques, Mecca and Medina.”
This old cliché is still apropos in President Barrack Obama’s saber-rattling standoff with President Vladimir Putin.
In Europe last week Mr. Obama said that Russia was a declining “regional power.” In seizing Crimea, Mr. Putin was expanding Russia’s influence over Ukraine–part of the lost former Soviet Empire–was the inference. I am sure Mr. Putin is still fuming over those remarks. For the U.S. the annexation of Crimea is not a national security threat as was the Cold War era. Containing Russia’s further incursion into Ukraine is important however the most pressing foreign security issues are the control of Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s chemical stockpile. Mr. Putin is the key to both issues.
Mr. Obama needs to spend time with Mr. Putin, to better understand his goals–at least his thinking. The Crimea takeover could have been averted. Reversing its integration into the Russian Empire probably will not happen. Western allies wringing their hands and seeking punishing sanctions will not change the takeover. What we don’t want to do is push Mr. Putin into annexing Ukraine. This would begin a more regional conflict and draw in neighboring countries.