Theatrical Conflict between Hezbollah and Israel
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 7
Lebanon is a small country whose economy depends almost entirely on two factors. The first is tourism, the second is the investment of foreign capital. Unfortunately, Lebanon is suffering from a $90-billion debt squeeze in addition to underdeveloped services in various sectors. The question that must be asked in this context is the following: Is Hizbollah general-secretary Hassan Nasrallah aware of this?
When Nasrallah openly threatened Israel with war, was he aware of the implications for the Lebanese economy? Did he consider the implications of turning Lebanon, at the expense of the Lebanese people and their livelihoods, into a protective shield for the Iranian mullahs? In my opinion, Lebanon’s current situation is unprecedented. Never in the course of history has it reached such a level of humiliation in which its citizens and politicians are subjected to the whims and dictates of a foreign power. Nasrallah has become the true ruler of Lebanon, taking orders from Tehran while the rest of Lebanon’s politicians are mere puppets. In any case, the real conflict is not between Lebanon and Israel but between Iran and Israel. Iran has made the wiping of Israel off the map its ultimate goal. Iran now knows that it will not be able to remain besieged forever and that it will be forced to come to the negotiating table with the United States. Thus, what Tehran is doing with the help of Nasrallah is being done in order to improve its negotiating power vis-a-vis the United States, especially if Trump wins a second term in the next US presidential election. In other words, Hizbollah’s decisions are actually made by Qasem Soleimani, not Hassan Nasrallah. It is simply unfathomable that in an effort to improve its ability to negotiate, Iran is sending the entire region into war. If the American plan to tame Iran succeeds, Hezbollah will follow Tehran’s footsteps and become nothing more than a lame duck floating in a pool of bilge water. This will be the ultimate vindication for the people of Lebanon.
The Fall of the Tehran-Beirut Corridor
Al-Arab, London, August 30
The glamorous photos coming out of Biarritz, in France, where the G7 nations convened last week, should not deflect our attention from the most interesting thing happening behind the scenes: the language used by the international community in response to the Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. US Vice President Mike Pence reached out to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, expressing his country’s full support for Israel’s right to security. This was also done by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who conveyed a warning message to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri against any Lebanese response to the Israeli action. While the American stance represents an antiquated classical behavior in support of Israel, the silence of the major nations, especially those whose leaders met in France, about the Israeli strikes that spanned from Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea, demonstrates the complete complicity of the international community in Israel’s actions. Under the auspices of the international community, Israel is shaking the strategic corridor that Iran has sought to build in recent years from Tehran to Beirut. The impetus of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to maximize the French efforts led by President Emmanuel Macron to launch a diplomatic backchannel during the G7 meeting is the Israeli message, which was heard loud and clear in Tehran. Any military response against Israel would bring broader and fiercer fire, with the backing of every nation in the world.
In the last few days, Tehran seems to have realized that the key to the survival of its regime is tied to Washington’s position alone, and that the stance of European leaders on the nuclear deal, as well as those of Beijing and Moscow, are nothing but irrelevant promises that hide complete alignment with the US position against Iran. It is clear that Iran is groaning under painful and devastating economic sanctions that it is trying to hide. It also seems to be losing the battle of the Strait of Hormuz. It is clear that the reluctance to resolve the Washington crisis with Tehran allows Israel to buy time and expand its military operations aimed at destroying what Iran has been building for decades. Meanwhile, Trump does not seem to be in a rush. To agree to attend a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, or to postpone it until “the right conditions” are ripe, is a luxury Tehran does not have. Israel’s military campaign may be driven by Israeli national interests, but it also seems to be serving the interests of other international players.
Israel After the Election: What Might Change?
Waheed Abd al-Majid
Al-Etihad, UAE, September 5
The upcoming Knesset election, which will be held on September 17, raises many questions about Israel’s future, chief among them the likelihood of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu being reelected. It is expected that these elections will be the most complex in the history of Israel after Netanyahu won a plurality of votes with his Likud party in April but failed to form a government. Things will certainly not be easier this time around. This prediction is based on indications that there is little difference in the balance of power from the last campaign…. Opinion polls show that the Zionist right-wing camp, which has been in power for nearly two decades, continues to outperform the liberal camp. Interestingly, one of the most intriguing figures in these elections is Avigdor Liberman, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. Although Liberman supported Netanyahu following the latter’s victory in April, the dispute between the two intensified during coalition negotiations, culminating in Liberman’s refusal to join a Netanyahu government.
This discord has grown even stronger during the new election campaign, which focuses on Liberman’s preference for excluding the two main religious parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, from the next government – against Netanyahu’s will. If the results of the polls are true, it is not unlikely that there will be a change in the Israeli political map. According to the prevailing trend in polls, it is expected that Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc as a whole will get the same number of seats it won in the April elections (65) or even slightly more. This number is enough to form a government and secure the confidence of the Knesset. But things might change at the last minute. Surveys show that Yisrael Beiteinu will increase its power and could reach nine or 10 seats, most likely at the expense of other right-wing parties. In this case, three possibilities can be envisaged, two of which involve a significant change in the political map. The first is the Likud’s transition to the opposition for the first time since 2001, with the formation of a government through an understanding between the new center-right Blue and White list, Yisrael Beiteinu and other parties. A coalition led by Benny Gantz, the head of Blue and White, could then be opened to rotation with Liberman. The second possibility is the formation of a unity government, which Lieberman has spoken about more than once. The viability of this option is unclear given the difficulty of even imagining the participation of the Zionist left-wing parties. It’s also hard to imagine the Likud joining the coalition if Liberman sticks to his refusal to accept Netanyahu as prime minister. The complexity of the situation leads us to a third possibility that will maintain the current balance of power: Likud leaders turn against Netanyahu and agree with Liberman to name one of them to form the next government. Although Netanyahu is aware of this possibility, a coup against him is not totally unlikely since Likud figureheads are quietly beginning to admit that their party’s role is more important than Netanyahu’s political survival. In any case, Israel appears to be at a pivotal moment that might lead to a major change in its political map and the composition of its next government. As always, the Palestinian people as well as the Arab world will have to deal with whatever happens as observers from the sidelines.
Waheed Abd al-Majid
Reframing Our Religious Rhetoric
Al Jazeera, Qatar, August 29
Marxism, one of the strongest doctrines of the European Left, revolved around a deep enmity and hatred of religion as an obstacle to human emancipation. European and non-European leftists often evoked Marx’s famous paraphrased statement, “Religion is the opium of the people.” But more recently, things have almost become the extreme opposite. Leftists have grown to become the biggest supporters of fundamentalist Islamic movements, accusing opponents of hatred of religion or, more specifically, Islamophobia. The alliance between the Islamists and leftists is not limited to Europe but shared by leftists all around the world. They insist that the spread of terrorism is the result of savage capitalism, which led to the disintegration of the great leftist camp (the Soviet Union). What is the secret of this alliance, and what are the motives for this phenomenon? In the beginning, it should be noted that there are two phenomena sweeping the West in the last decade: the phenomenon of Islamophobia and the phenomenon of right-wing extremism.
These phenomena feed each other. Like the leftists, political Islamists were bitter about their ideological defeat and the failure of their political experiments. They sought to compensate for their ideological loss through non-democratic means. We must remember that this utilitarian alliance is a temporary one, which will soon come to an end. It is also true that it is unjust to judge Islam by the standards of a very few extremists. But we must admit that this phenomenon cannot be ignored, especially given the events of September 11 and the spread in global terrorism. The violent events that swept most of the world, carried out by Muslim fundamentalists, shook the minds of people and caused a deep fear of Islam. I am a frequent advocate of religious tolerance and respectful discourse. But I fear that the term “Islamophobia” will be used as an excuse to silence us and prevent us from reforming our religious discourse in a way that makes it more peaceful and welcoming of all peoples. This is what the revolutionary Islamic movements refuse to do, because a non-violent Islam inherently means the elimination of all movements of political Islam. Reforming religious discourse means stripping them of their most important weapons, through which they seek to fulfill the ambitions of their leaders and masters.