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Moscow Website Editorial on Egypt`s Growing Role in `Great Near Eastern Game`
Gazeta.ru
Wednesday, November 28, 2012


 
Managed Lunacy


Editorial: “Managed Lunacy. Chief Role in Great Near Eastern Game Is Passing From United States, EU, and Russia to Egypt


The first Israeli-Arab war since the “Arab spring” has been suspended, if not ended. The result resembles a draw. However, the new roles that the main heroes of the Near East have tried on are promising to change the entire picture of politics there.


A cease-fire has been reached between Israel and Gaza as a result of Egyptian mediation. Egypt has been proclaimed the agreement`s guarantor. The sides are promising to hold further talks through Egypt. This is probably the chief result of the eight-day war.


Egypt tried also under the Mubarak regime to mediate between the Palestinians and the Israelis. But it did so in secret, and things turned out badly. Particularly after the Islamists of HAMAS seized power in Gaza, for they hated the Egyptian autocrats and were oriented toward Iran`s Islamic revolutionary regime and its local clients like Lebanon`s Hizballah.


After the “Arab spring” and the election of the Muslim Brotherhood`s Muhammad Mursi as Egyptian president, HAMAS acquired ideologically close partners in Cairo. These were people with whom Israel and the United States, which did not really know what to advise it, preferred not to exacerbate relations and to seek a common language. President Mursi, having decided to demonstrate his moderate position, formulated something like a compromise - we do not know how strong a compromise.


Gaza is now noisily celebrating victory. This is a tribute to the local custom of interpreting every military clash as a triumph over the “Zionist enemy.” In reality something like a draw was recorded.


The sides are promising to cease reciprocal attacks, and this means that HAMAS will for a time have to reduce to a minimum the usual rocket shelling of Israeli territory. Although Israel refused to lift the economic blockade of Gaza, it agreed to alleviate it on several counts.


Does this mean that “Pillar of Cloud” brought the sides just a little closer to peace? No. The Palestinian Authority is divided geographically into two parts that are growing increasingly far apart from each other politically and organizationally - the West Bank, governed by the more or less secular Fatah, and Gaza, seized by the Islamist HAMAS.


The Israeli authorities and Fatah, which rules on the West Bank, acknowledge their mutual right to state existence, albeit with reservations, and so peace talks are possible between them. The subject of the talks is a pragmatic dispute over which lands must belong to whom. But HAMAS proclaims the liquidation of Israel as its sacred goal and insists on this today as firmly as ever.


As for a debate over any specific lands, there certainly cannot be one here, since as much as seven years ago Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza, built a wall between them, and would just like most of all to forget about Gaza. But the rocket shelling that has been going on since 2001 does not allow it to do so.


The response, in addition to air and, more rarely, ground attacks, was the Israeli blockade of Gaza. This combination of words has become a stable formula of international political practice. Although in fact it is not quite a blockade, since it blocks the importation of many, but not all commodities - only those that theoretically could be used for military purposes. In addition, it is not only an Israeli blockade, since Gaza also borders on Egypt, without whose assistance no blockade would be possible at all. Even now Egypt is not very keen on letting weapons through to HAMAS militants and so encouraging military operations close to its Sinai resorts. But it seems not to be averse to finding a use for Gaza politically, since the preconditions for this have matured on both sides. The preconditions are apparent.


Unlike the West Bank with its poor yet really working economy and dense population, albeit no more dense than in neighboring Israel, Gaza is turning into a special and even unique formation. Some experts even speak of a new Near Eastern people that has suddenly emerged.


It has one of the highest natural population increases in the world, or even the highest one: The number of inhabitants doubles every 20 years. Some 1.5 million people already live on a scrap of land smaller in size than Singapore. Only Singapore is one of the world`s richest states, while Gaza exists on subsidies being channeled by Western countries directly or through the United Nations. One in every two residents here is under 18 years of age. One in three adults is unemployed.


Extremism is the air that people breathe here. It is engendered by the very way of life, which is interminable yet, thanks to foreign aid, not starving and in which the tone is set by idle young people full of energy. This way of life, which demonstratively ignores the good admonitions of economic sponsors, makes them seek and find political-ideological and military sponsors. Gaza cannot manage without them.


Before the “Arab spring” Iran took this role. Today, too, official Tehran is really endeavoring to register for the camp of winners of the eight-day war by reminding people that the missiles that reached Tel Aviv were of Iranian origin. But the political map of the Near East is changing. HAMAS is moving away from its former friends, from Tehran, from Al-Asad`s Damascus, and from Hizballah and tending toward Cairo.


Post-revolutionary Egypt is definitely seeking to become the Near Eastern hegemon, acquiring vassals, and groping for a new style of relations with the region`s small and large, near and far players. Although the role of external centers of influence that are accustomed to deciding the fate of the Near East, whether America, the EU, or Russia, remains appreciable, it is clearly declining. They are failing to keep up with events there, and they increasingly frequently just swim with the tide. In the great Near Eastern game the powers of this very region are now to play the chief role.


New alignments and new alliances have not yet become fixed, and it is hard to foresee what they will be like in the event of a full-scale crisis over Iran. The likelihood of such a crisis after the Israel-Gaza war has in no way diminished and may even have increased.


The effectiveness of the new Israeli Iron Dome ABM system has weakened the stimuli for a ground invasion of Gaza by the Israelis.


But their stronger faith in their own ability to repulse rocket attacks by Hizballah and other possible friends of Iran around the perimeter of Israel`s borders may now make it easier to decide to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Despite every wish to look ahead with optimism, the likelihood that the present cease-fire will usher in an era of peaceful cooperation between former enemies is not great.


The HAMAS regime in Gaza has strengthened its independence from the Fatah regime on the West Bank, but the course that HAMAS formulated hitherto independently always proved to be a course of fanaticism, destructivism, and inappropriateness. A policy of lunacy, to put it in everyday language. Admittedly, the hand of Egypt has now been extended toward Gaza, and it intends somehow to manage this lunacy. This will be good if it restrains the fits of lunacy and does not inflame passions still more strongly.


(Description of Source: Moscow Gazeta.ru in Russian -- Popular website owned by LiveJournal proprietor SUP: often critical of the government; URL: http://www.gazeta.ru)


© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


Saudi Editorial Explores Egyptian Stance on Gaza Conflict
Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online
Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Article by Abd-al-Rahman al-Rashid: “Why doesn`t Egypt defend Gaza militarily?”


I don`t think that millions of Arabs today accept the statements of sympathy, symbolic field visits, and diplomatic activities that are being showcased to address the aggression on Gaza.


Yet if Egypt decided to defend Gaza in a military fashion, perhaps the political equitation would be entirely different, even if it wasn`t victorious. What`s more, this wouldn`t have to be a major war.


The visit paid by (Egyptian Prime Minister) Hisham Qandil to Gaza was no more politically valuable than those conducted by the late Omar Suleiman, the former head of Egyptian intelligence during the Mubarak era. Qandil`s statements of condemnation do not scare Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, who launched the attack for electoral purposes and to challenge the new Egyptian regime. He wants to determine Egypt`s limits on the ground and to clarify the boundaries of the relationship between the two states.


The truth is that Hamas has been extremely disciplined and has honored the commitments it has made to Israel. Of course it responded to the latest Israeli act of aggression, and to the military provocations over the past few months, but Hamas has also done its utmost to prevent and pursue extremist Salafi jihadist groups, which have deliberately launched missiles or attempted to cross the border into Israel.


It is clear from recent statements that Israel holds Hamas responsible for the actions of these uncontrolled jihadist groups. Most of the attacks from the Israeli side, sometimes aerial bombardments, have been aimed at Hamas and not at the rogue groups that are a threat not only to Israel but to Hamas itself.


Therefore, it is clear that Israel is using its latest aggression for purposes that have nothing to do with responding to threats or protecting its territory. It is a military operation purely for political reasons.


I believe that President Mohammed Mursi knows that this time the war on Gaza is primarily directed at him and not at Haniyeh`s government. Israel wants to ensure his obedience from the outset and embarrass him before his citizens and the Arabs, who are watching and wondering what the difference between him and Mubarak is. Sending messages, dispatching officials and withdrawing ambassadors were the weapons that Mubarak used to show solidarity with the Palestinians. What will Mursi`s tactics be to stop the Israeli aggression?


We always say that when an opposition movement is on the street it is more vocal and outspoken than the government, but when it assumes office it conforms to certain parameters, and this is exactly what is happening with Mursi.


Ever since it came to power, Mursi`s government has dealt with diplomatic norms in a civilized and harmonious manner, and has shown its commitment to the legacy of the Camp David Accords and other agreements. In this respect, it has outdone any previous government. President Mursi has closed the tunnels that were used to smuggle arms into Gaza. Of course, there is neither any logic nor truth in the assertion that closing these tunnels will protect Sinai from weapons and fighters infiltrating from Gaza. Sinai is the passage and Gaza is the destination, or the downstream. Egyptian forces have also waged the largest military confrontation in Sinai since 1973, only this time against Egyptian extremists and jihadist groups that threaten both Israel and Egypt`s security. As long as Mursi remains committed to the Camp David agreement, he is obliged to do so.


Yet despite all this evidence, the Netanyahu government has failed to respect the new Egyptian regime and has deliberately embarrassed Mursi on several occasions, most recently with the attack on Gaza, which is, in fact, partially an attack on Egypt.


Does Egypt dare get involved in a war with Israel? Personally, I think the question should be reversed: Does Israel risk opening a military front with Egypt?


(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in English -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance; URL: http://www.asharq-e.com/ )


© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


Iran Commentary: Iran `Main Partner of HAMAS` in `Resistance`s Victory` in Gaza
Javan Online
Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Commentary by Sina Sarmad: “Why Did the Eight-Day War End With the Victory of the Resistance Movement?”


Although the eight-day invasion of Gaza by the Zionist regime and an unequal war against the defenseless people of Gaza caused a great deal of damage and many casualties in the Gaza Strip, nevertheless, from a political point of view that regime did not achieve its goals. On the contrary, it produced many political benefits for the HAMAS.


One of the most important consequences of the Eight-Day War for the Resistance was that once again it proved to the usurping Zionist regime that HAMAS is a popular movement that enjoys strong support of the Palestinian people and that it has been turned into a power in the Palestinian equations that cannot be ignored.


In the same connection, the Zionist newspaper Haaretz has compared Israel`s promise of smashing the HAMAS government by military means with the promise of a comprehensive peace with the Palestinian nation, and wrote: “We are facing a political confrontation, not an economic or military confrontation. HAMAS is not a terrorist organization, but a popular movement that achieved victory in an election that was held with the agreement of the international community and the Israeli government.”


Meanwhile, one cannot ignore Iran`s role in the victory of the Resistance, so much so that one of the prominent leaders of the Islamic Jihad of Palestine has described the Islamic Republic of Iran as the most important partner in the recent victory of the Islamic Resistance in Gaza against the Zionist regime. Speaking about the most important factors in that victory, Khalid al-Batsh, a prominent member of the Islamic Jihad of Palestine, said: “One of the most important factors in that resistance and victory, and perhaps the most important factor, was the unity in the field that was established between Palestinian fighters from different groups and movements in confronting the Zionist regime. It was also due to the popular unity among various groups of Palestinians that became manifest among all the Palestinians from Gaza, to the Gaza Strip, to the occupied Jerusalem, to the areas that were occupied in 1948 and also among the Palestinians living outside Palestine.” According to Khalid al-Batsh, the Palestinian people united round the axis of Resistance, and in this way they managed to take a step forward in putting an end to their internal divisions.


Continuing his remarks, the prominent leader of the Islamic Jihad of Palestine stressed: “In this resistance and victory, the Palestinian nation was not alone, but some others also had a share in that victory, and the Islamic Republic of Iran and (the Lebanese) Hizballah were at the head of that list.” According to him, “the Islamic Republic of Iran that has not refrained from providing political, financial and weapons assistance to the Palestinian Resistance against the Zionist occupiers is without doubt one of the major partners in that victory. Also, one should not overlook the stance adopted by the Egyptian government and the presence of its prime minister in Gaza during the first days of the aggression against the Gaza Strip.”


In another part of his interview with Mehr (News Agency), al-Batsh said: “If we put all those factors together, we will see that this victory of the Palestinian nation was due to the heroism of Resistance groups, military and financial assistance of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the mobilization of public opinion and political mobilization by Egypt. The collaboration of those three factors gave rise to that extraordinary and mythical resistance.”


In any case, the Eight-Day War in Gaza came to an end with an unwritten peace agreement (as published). Although as the result of the Eight-Day War against the Gaza Strip, the Zionist regime succeeded to assassinate Ahmad al-Ja`abari (or Ahmed al-Jabari), the deputy commander of Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of HAMAS, nevertheless, the unwanted outcome of that war was the strengthening of the position of HAMAS, and raising it to a level that from now on HAMAS cannot be ignored by the international community. Furthermore, it resulted in the weakening of the Palestinian Authority, or in other words, in the long-term, (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has sacrificed Salam Fayyad (prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority) for the sake of Isma`il Haniya (or Ismael Haniyeh, the prime minister of HAMAS).


(Description of Source: Tehran Javan Online in Persian -- Website of hardline conservative daily affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC); www.javannewspaper.com)


© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


Iran Commentary Discusses Reasons Behind Israeli Attack on Gaza
Khorasan Online
Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Commentary by Seyyed Hamid Hoseyni headlined: “Hamas and the Other Side of the Coin of the 8-day Gaza War”


Israel`s eight day attack on Gaza finally came to an end with the acceptance of a ceasefire based on a plan recommended by Egypt. Undoubtedly, this will not be the Zionist regime`s last attack against Gaza but the events that happened during the eight day war and resistance by the people of Gaza, greatly influenced the equations governing future conflicts and even the probability of their repetition. An analysis of Israel`s behavior in its strike on Gaza and the objectives that it followed would not be possible without taking into account the domestic and international conditions that this regime is facing. But analysts have specifically described different reasons for Israel`s attack on Gaza. Certain analysts are of the opinion that one of the most important reasons for Netanyahu`s attack on Gaza is the parliamentary election race in the occupied lands, which is due to to take place in less than two months, because it will bring in the votes from the extremist majority of Israeli society. Nevertheless, the not so pleasant outcome of this attack for Tel Aviv has now turned into leverage for opposing parties to criticize the method by which Netanyahu dealt with the Gaza issue.


Some of the objectives that Tel Aviv was pursuing in its new round of attacks on Gaza included a weapons` assessment of Hamas and other resistance groups, efforts to weaken the deterrence power and destroy the Palestinian groups` weapons infrastructures to prevent them from inflicting blows on Israel when necessary, testing the missile defense shield known as the Iron Dome - a system which was completed in 2011 by Israel and regarding the operation of which different viewpoints have been published - and preventing possible negotiations between Iran and the United States in view of Obama`s reelection that according to some reports were imminent.


Disregarding whether Israel has obtained its objectives or not, the war in Gaza can be considered the first practical test for a new power balance in the Middle East after the populist unrests and revolutions in certain Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Did Egypt`s Morsi enter into the Gaza saga as was expected? Although during the eight day war, Morsi turned Cairo into the center of diplomatic counseling and the UN secretary general and even the US secretary of state traveled to Egypt to discuss a ceasefire, Egyptian public opinion and the axis of resistance expected something other than this soft behavior by Morsi. This was completely evident in the several speeches made by Seyyed Hasan Nasrollah and his implicit and explicit criticism over opening up the Gaza siege and providing help to the fighters in the Gaza Strip.


What was Erdogan`s performance, who at one time called himself the flag bearer in the fight against Israel and a supporter of Palestinian rights, during this battle? What was the stance taken by the emir of Qatar during the eight day war, who traveled to this region as the first Arab leader after five years since the political and economic siege of Gaza began?


Those who defend the actions of these countries, may refer to the prominent role they played in the establishment of the ceasefire and the diplomatic counseling but one question remains unanswered; how and using what logic did leaders, who send ships full of weapons and ammunition to the Syrian opposition under their support, not take any action with regard to providing weapons support to the Palestinians? It seems that receiving a response to his question would be useful for Hamas leaders more than anybody else. In recent months and after the Muslim brotherhood movement became stronger in Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey, in addition to political and financial assistance from the emir of Qatar, Hamas felt that it has discovered new political potential for activity and in line with these movements, particularly as far as the Syrian issue was concerned, it adopted a standpoint different to what it formerly believed. These standpoints gradually quickened the process of divergence between Hamas and other countries within the axis of resistance, meaning Iran, Syria, and Lebanon`s Hezbollah. Hamas` approach toward Syria even went beyond the adoption of a political standpoint and resulted in armed conflict between guerrilla forces attributed to Hamas in the mainly Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Syria and the consequent closure of all Hamas offices in this country by the Bashar Assad government. The question now is whether the eight day war in Gaza showed Hamas leaders that their main issue is not Syria but Israel.


Although after the ceasefire and during a press conference, Khaled Mash`al, the head of the Hamas political office, openly expressed his thanks for Iran`s assistance during the war in Gaza, and Iranian officials explicitly spoke of military and financial aid for Palestinian resistance, Tel Aviv has strongly pinned its hopes on the process of Hamas` transformation from a military/political movement to one that is completely political and the full closure of its military branch. Certain analysts have assessed the premature ceasefire in Gaza within this framework and believe that should Hamas become weakened and in order to prevent further expansion of extremist and more revolutionary tendencies in the Gaza Strip, such as Islamic Jihad, which unlike Hamas does not particularly obey Egypt and Qatar, Israel has agreed to the ceasefire.


Undoubtedly, Tel Aviv will continue with the assassination of Hamas` jihadist leaders and the destruction of their resistance infrastructures until their complete surrender; an experience that was used to force Fatah into submission several years ago.


In view of these facts, the question, the answer to which we shall discover in the future is this: will Hamas adopt the same path as Fatah or will the resistance movement inside Hamas and Gaza overcome its political front, under whose feet the red carpet is spread out these days in the capitals of Turkey and Qatar? The initial standpoints adopted by Hamas officials, including Isma`il Haniyeh, Khaled Mash`al, and Mahmud Al-Zahar have strengthened this hope but we have to wait to receive an accurate response.


(Description of Source: Mashhad Khorasan Online in Persian -- website of centrist daily published in Mashhad, backed by the powerful Martyrs Foundation; strongly supports Khomeyni`s economic ideals of total independence and self-sufficiency; URL: http://www.khorasannews.com)


© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


 



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