Arab writers from the Middle East and beyond, weigh in on the economic crisis facing countries in the region and the proposed plan of Israeli annexation
Now Is Not The Time For Chants About Jerusalem!
By Kheir Allah Kheir Allah
Al-Arab, London, May 29
Despite the chants coming from senior members of Hezbollah, who vow that we will all soon be praying in Jerusalem, there is only one truth in the region, at least in the foreseeable future: Israel was, and still is, the sovereign in Jerusalem. And it is not going to vanish overnight. There is, unfortunately, nothing other than this reality. Announcing that we will pray in al-Aqsa will not change the truth.
Before Hassan Nasrallah and his aides prepare to pray in Jerusalem, it is necessary to look at some figures related to Syria and Lebanon.
Today, 86% of Syrians live below the poverty line, while Iran considers how to recover the estimated $30 billion it spent in the country to protect the Bashar Assad regime. Syria needs at least $500b. to rebuild itself.
Who exactly is going to come to Syria’s help, given the current financial crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic and the drop in the price of oil? Frankly, no one.
In parallel to the figures coming out of Syria, we’re also witnessing alarming figures in Lebanon. The Lebanese banking sector is quite literally on the verge of collapse, and the country’s education system is about to be obliterated. People who want to pray in Jerusalem forget that hunger and poverty threaten a million Lebanese citizens.
This is what the regional director of the World Food Program and his representative in Lebanon, Abdullah al-Wardat, warned of. Wardat said that a million Lebanese are at risk of falling below the food poverty line this year, noting that the program is preparing to provide emergency food assistance to support some 50,000 Lebanese families exposed to the repercussions of the current economic crises.
Yes, before praying in Jerusalem, there is hunger, there is suffering, there is death, and there is a need for real political leadership that speaks truth to its people. Syria and Lebanon are in shambles. Nevertheless, there are those who want to pray in Jerusalem.
This does not mean, of course, that the Israeli occupation of the holy city can be justified. It also does not mean that we should condone Israel’s desire to perpetuate its occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank. But before delivering promises to pray in Jerusalem, it might be wiser to think of ways to avoid a disaster in Lebanon and Syria. The numbers don’t lie. They show the raw and harsh truth unfolding around us. People must confront these figures before making empty promises.
Turning Israel into a ploy or a distraction undermines the magnitude of both our problems at home, as well as the plight of the Palestinian people.
Kheir Allah Kheir Allah
(Translated from Arabic into English by Asaf Zilberfarb)
PA Counter-proposal to US Peace Plan Calls for Demilitarized State
By Mohammad Al-Kassim
The Media Line, 09 June 2020
PM Shtayyeh: Israel must ‘face the consequences’ over Netanyahu’s planned annexations in West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority will declare an independent, demilitarized state in the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, with parts of Jerusalem as its capital, if Israel goes forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday.
This would mean the transition from “a temporary authority” to “the imposition of a state on the ground, and Palestine will be a state along the pre-1967 borders and its capital will be East Jerusalem,” he told members of the foreign press in Ramallah.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says annexation could start as early as July 1. If so, Shtayyeh said the PA would make a “constitutional announcement” and establish a “constituent assembly,” saying that Israel would have to face the consequences.
Annexation “would kill any possibility of peace with Israel,” he explained, and erode “the Palestinian, regional and international consensus” on a two-state solution. Israel, he warned, must now “feel the heat of international pressure.”
He said the PA had sent a plan for Palestinian statehood to the Middle East Quartet – the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia − in response to the Trump Administration’s own peace plan, which sees as much as 30% of the West Bank being annexed by Israel.
“We submitted a counter-proposal to the Quartet a few days ago,” Shtayyeh said.
The PA plan provides for the creation of a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized,” with “minor modifications of borders where necessary,” he noted.
Responding to a question from The Media Line, the PA prime minister insisted that the EU’s backing for the Palestinians was solid.
“We know the decision-making process in Europe is complicated. European decision-making is built on consensus. And we know that there are one or two countries in Europe who are not in line with others,” he stated.
“But I want to assure you,” he continued, “that it’s the first time that European decision-makers are actually debating two things: One is sanctions on Israel and freezing… agreements, as well as cancelling some research programs…. The second thing being discussed in Europe is recognizing Palestine. These measures are important to us because at the end of the day, we have to break the status quo. For us, this is not lip service.”
Shtayyeh made clear that the PA was not going anywhere.
“On the issue of dissolving the Palestinian Authority, look, let’s not fool ourselves: The PA is not a gift from anybody. The PA came into being because of the sacrifices of the Palestinian people since 1965 [when the PLO began its militancy campaign]. So we are not waiting for somebody to give us less or more. It’s not a gift. And you don’t give a gift back,” he said.
He called the PA a “national interest” for Palestinians.
“For us, the issue is not to dissolve the PA, throw away the keys and go home,” he explained. “But if Israel wants to destroy the Authority with the measures it is taking, we know how to resist it. And that is why I’m saying that the status quo cannot be maintained.”
Shtayyeh called Israeli annexation an “existential threat” for the Palestinians.
“It’s a serious violation of signed agreements between us and Israel, a total breach of international law. It’s a threat to regional security, in particular to Jordan, and it is part of the systematic destruction of a future Palestinian state,” he said.
“Frankly, this peace process has a reached a serious impasse,” he continued, “and I think the situation is irreversible.”
Shtayyeh told a packed hall of reporters from around the world that Israel had already implemented small steps on the ground in the Jordan Valley in preparation for annexation.
“There are a number of measures that Israel started to take [in order] to implement its annexation plan,” he stated.
“First, they started sending utility bills to the people and villages in the Jordan Valley – electricity and water… and the sign that usually says ‘Beyond this point is Palestinian Authority domain’ has been removed,” he said.
On Monday, a demonstration by about 500 people took place in downtown Ramallah against Israel’s annexation plans.
“The anger is there, the dissatisfaction is there, the frustration is there, and all that is a recipe for more problems,” Shtayyeh said.
He reaffirmed the PA’s position against Washington’s involvement in the peace process.
“The whole world has been waiting for President [Donald] Trump to come up with an initiative,” the prime minister said. “He came up with a proposal that has been totally rejected by the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Europeans [and] the rest of the world. Even Israel objects to certain elements.”
Shtayyeh believes a new approach to peace is necessary.
“There has to be a serious paradigm shift, from bilateralism to multilateralism,” he stated. “We want a serious break of the monopoly of Washington over the process. Washington cannot be an honest broker. You need a different broker. An international mechanism.”
Israel would not have moved in the direction of annexation without US approval, he added.
“Unfortunately, annexation has been based on maps provided by the Trump Administration,” he said, “so the maps provide some sort of [American] legitimacy to the Israelis.”
(Translated from Arabic into English by Asaf Zilberfarb)
Barack Obama And The Middle East Revolutions
By Hassan Al-Mustafa
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 26
I was asked a lot about the reason for which former US president Barack Obama was blind in his support for the Arab revolutions, a characteristic of his presidency that almost destroyed his country’s relations with the Arab world.
The short answer to this question is that in Obama’s worldview, spreading freedom and democracy is paramount to anything else. Indeed, Obama’s worldview was shaped directly by the writings of scholars like Fareed Zakaria who believe that in order to fight terrorism, the Western world must first understand the reasons for its emergence. According to Zakaria, terrorism occurs due to the absence of democracy and the presence of oppression at the hands of dictatorial regimes. This idea clearly appealed to Obama, leading him to support the Arab revolutions with full force.
Was Zakaria’s idea correct? Have the Arab revolutions succeeded in bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East, thereby eliminating terrorism?
The answer here is very obvious. It suffices to look at the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest winner of these revolutions, which failed miserably in governance in both Tunisia and Egypt.
The most ironic part is that this failure could be attributed, in large part, to the strong tailwinds and backing that the movement received from leaders like Obama. In trying to eradicate terrorism through support and containment, Obama may have only helped spread terrorism. In seeking to replace one dictatorship with another, his vision for the Middle East was doomed to fail from the very beginning.
(Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)
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