Arab Press

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The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - COM­PILED BY THE ME­DIA LINE

IS IS­RAEL THE BIG­GEST LOSER?

Al-Anba, Kuwait, Novem­ber 1

Those who know a thing or two about Mid­dle East pol­i­tics couldn’t have helped but be sur­prised by the Is­raeli si­lence in the af­ter­math of the Khashoggi scan­dal. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Benyamin Ne­tanyahu, who is usu­ally the first to com­ment on the dire con­di­tions of democ­racy in the Mid­dle East, com­pletely re­frained from com­ment­ing on the in­ci­dent. This was not co­in­ci­den­tal.

Ac­cord­ing to high-level of­fi­cials in Tel Aviv, Is­rael is truly wary of the reper­cus­sions of the Khashoggi de­ba­cle on its own in­ter­ests in the re­gion. There­fore, the Is­raeli govern­ment de­cided to re­main silent about the in­ci­dent in an ef­fort to back Saudi Ara­bia and cut its losses.

Is­rael’s big­gest loss is on the in­tel­li­gence front. Saudi Ara­bia’s se­cu­rity strong­man, Maj.-Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, who has been Is­rael’s point-per­son in the king­dom, was re­cently sacked in re­sponse to the af­fair, bring­ing an end to Is­rael’s back-door con­duit to the Saudi royal fam­ily. At­tempts to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively with the Saudi lead­er­ship will now be­come more dif­fi­cult for Is­raeli of­fi­cials, as Asiri is not an easy per­son to re­place.

Not only did Is­rael wit­ness the weak­en­ing of an ally, but it also ex­pe­ri­enced the strength­en­ing of an enemy. Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who is Ne­tanyahu’s arch-neme­sis, emerged as a true vic­tor from this af­fair, af­ter Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties car­ried out an ex­cep­tion­ally nim­ble and thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Khashoggi’s death and pro­vided ev­i­dence ty­ing Saudi diplo­mats to his mur­der. Is­raeli of­fi­cials are par­tic­u­larly bit­ter about this. Many of them would only wish that Er­do­gan would one day or­der sim­i­larly ef­fec­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tions against Ha­mas’s and Hezbol­lah’s ter­ror­ist cells in Turkey.

To Is­raelis, wit­ness­ing one of their clos­est back­ers in the Arab world be­come os­tra­cized, and its big­gest ad­ver­sary re­ceive praise, is a painful sight. Whether it in­tended for this or not, Is­rael found it­self at the core of the Khashoggi af­fair. Much has been said and writ­ten about Saudi Ara­bia’s losses as a re­sult of the scan­dal, but could it be pos­si­ble that Tel Aviv is, ac­tu­ally, the big­gest loser of this scan­dal?

– Abd al-Nasser Essa

To Is­raelis, wit­ness­ing one of their clos­est back­ers in the Arab world [Saudi Ara­bia] be­come os­tra­cized, and its big­gest ad­ver­sary [Turkey] re­ceive praise, is a painful sight

A DIF­FER­ENT PER­SPEC­TIVE ON OMAN

Al Ara­biya, Saudi Ara­bia, Oc­to­ber 30

Al­though Oman is of­ten cited as a state with lim­ited power, the re­cent visit of an Is­raeli prime min­is­ter to the sul­tanate is an im­por­tant re­minder of Muscat’s great geopo­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence.

Oman is the only Arab coun­try that main­tains good re­la­tions with a wide host of coun­tries in the re­gion, in­clud­ing Gulf States, Iran and Is­rael. This dis­tin­guishes the Sul­tanate from most other coun­tries in the Mid­dle East, which usu­ally be­long to one spe­cific po­lit­i­cal camp. Oman, how­ever, isn’t shy about main­tain­ing ties with op­pos­ing par­ties. It seeks to build peace­ful re­la­tions with who­ever de­sires its friend­ship, while re­main­ing be­holden to no sin­gle power.

Thanks to this fact, Muscat has played an im­por­tant role in re­gional ne­go­ti­a­tions. It has been in­volved in me­di­at­ing a cease-fire agree­ment in Ye­men, took part in ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, and even fa­cil­i­tated se­cret back-chan­nel talks be­tween the United States and Iran. The fact that a serv­ing Is­raeli prime min­is­ter for­mally vis­ited the coun­try, there­fore, raises in­ter­est­ing ques­tions about the pur­pose of this visit and what Is­raeli and Omani in­ter­locu­tors are plan­ning be­hind closed doors.

Is Is­rael try­ing to bring Muscat on board Trump’s so-called “deal of the cen­tury” be­tween the Is­raelis and the Pales­tini­ans? Al­ter­na­tively, is Ne­tanyahu try­ing to avoid Trump’s peace plan by pre­empt­ing it with an Arab plan of his own? My be­lief is that Oman is try­ing to re-brand it­self as a vi­tal po­lit­i­cal player in the re­gion and on the in­ter­na­tional stage. To dis­tin­guish it­self from other Gulf States that are busy fight­ing each other over in­ter­nal dis­putes, Oman is mar­ket­ing it­self as a coun­try that is un­afraid of mak­ing bold moves. In­deed, it may main­tain close re­la­tions with Iran, while invit­ing the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter for an of­fi­cial and highly cov­ered state visit. It can main­tain close ties with Saudi Ara­bia, while con­duct­ing ex­ten­sive trade re­la­tions with Qatar.

Al­though it lacks the mil­i­tary strength that many of its neigh­bors have, Oman’s po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic strength is prov­ing to be larger than we ever imag­ined.

– Amal Abd al-Aziz al-Hazani

To dis­tin­guish it­self from other Gulf States... Oman is mar­ket­ing it­self as a coun­try that is un­afraid of mak­ing bold moves

THE BROTHER­HOOD’S PLOT TO RAISE FOOD PRICES IN EGYPT

Al Watan, Egypt, Novem­ber 2

Through­out its quest for power, the Mus­lim Brother­hood in­vested great ef­forts in es­tab­lish­ing an eco­nomic in­fra­struc­ture that would sup­port its ac­tiv­i­ties, es­pe­cially in coun­tries in which it had a heavy pres­ence.

In Egypt, for ex­am­ple, the Brother­hood es­tab­lished large eco­nomic en­ti­ties, from hos­pi­tals and gro­cery stores to schools and nurs­eries. Th­ese projects re­quired mil­lions, if not bil­lions, of dol­lars, which the Brother­hood skill­fully hid from au­thor­i­ties in or­der to avoid sur­veil­lance and tax­a­tion. With time, a large por­tion of the Egyp­tian pub­lic came to rely on the Brother­hood’s ser­vices on a daily ba­sis, mak­ing the move­ment an in­dis­pens­able part of Egyp­tian so­ci­ety. This be­came es­pe­cially no­tice­able af­ter the oust­ing of for­mer pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Morsi and the elec­tion of a non-Brother­hood pres­i­dent.

As soon as the or­ga­ni­za­tion lost its dream of em­pow­er­ment, the Brother­hood be­gan pur­su­ing a new strat­egy of pun­ish­ing the Egyp­tian pub­lic for its de­ci­sion to sup­port the new govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Ab­del al-Fat­tah al-Sisi. Brother­hood mem­bers be­gan mon­e­tiz­ing many of their ser­vices. In some re­gions of Egypt, Brother­hood in­sti­tu­tions de­nied ser­vices to in­di­vid­u­als who were not ex­plicit Sisi op­po­nents. The strat­egy was sim­ple: to cre­ate a per­ma­nent state of frus­tra­tion and anger among the Egyp­tian peo­ple, which could un­der­mine the sta­bil­ity of the new regime.

In­deed, in the past few weeks th­ese ef­forts es­ca­lated even fur­ther. A po­tato short­age in the coun­try caused prices of ba­sic food com­modi­ties in Egypt to dou­ble over the course of just a few days. Gro­cery stores were emp­tied of ba­sic sup­plies within just a few hours. How­ever, fol­low­ing a quick in­ves­ti­ga­tion, au­thor­i­ties soon dis­cov­ered that Brother­hood-backed trad­ing groups had pur­chased po­ta­toes en masse and hid­den them in ware­houses across the coun­try in an ef­fort to cre­ate an ar­ti­fi­cial short­age that would in­flate food prices. This form of fi­nan­cial ter­ror­ism is no dif­fer­ent from the Brother­hood’s other tech­niques of in­tim­i­da­tion and vi­o­lence.

A group that acts so fla­grantly against the in­ter­ests of the pub­lic can­not rep­re­sent or care about the peo­ple of Egypt. – Muham­mad Salah

BUILD­ING SYRIA BE­TWEEN PUTIN, MACRON, MERKEL AND ER­DO­GAN

Asharq al-Awsat, Lon­don, Novem­ber 1

Dur­ing the quadri­par­tite sum­mit held last week be­tween the Rus­sian, French, Ger­man and Turk­ish lead­ers re­gard­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Syria, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who has been sup­port­ive of the Syr­ian rebels, asked his coun­ter­parts to take an ac­tive stance in the re­con­struc­tion of Syria.

His de­mand was po­litely re­jected by Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron. Macron told Er­do­gan that the Syr­ian regime’s war against its op­po­nents has led to mil­lions of Syr­ian refugees and that the only po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the sit­u­a­tion on the ground must al­low all Syr­i­ans to re­turn to their coun­try and live in peace. Macron in­sisted that the regime must ne­go­ti­ate a com­pre­hen­sive po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion with all fac­tions within Syr­ian so­ci­ety. This is in line with the Amer­i­can po­si­tion, which re­fuses to ac­cept a sit­u­a­tion in which As­sad con­tin­ues to at­tack his op­po­nents us­ing Ira­nian back­ing, while claim­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion.

Like Er­do­gan, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin also asked his Euro­pean coun­ter­parts for help. In do­ing so, he ad­mit­ted that Rus­sia can­not, alone, bear the cost of re­build­ing the war-torn coun­try. It is true that Putin im­posed his coun­try’s pres­ence in the Mid­dle East, and per­haps glob­ally, through his in­ter­ven­tion in Syria, but Rus­sia no longer has the strength of the for­mer Soviet Union. Putin’s ap­peal to France and Ger­many for a more ac­tive in­ter­ven­tion in the re­con­struc­tion of Syria there­fore re­flects a true Rus­sian weak­ness. Moscow needs Europe in or­der to pro­mote its goals. How­ever, its plan to bring Euro­pean na­tions on board will re­main im­pos­si­ble so long as the sit­u­a­tion on the ground re­mains un­changed.

What so­lu­tions this sum­mit might bring re­mains un­clear. In the mean­time, all par­tic­i­pat­ing na­tions ex­pressed “mod­est” ex­pec­ta­tions about the prospect of mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion. This be­comes all the more dif­fi­cult, given the fact that the United Na­tions launched its own par­al­lel process of Syr­ian re­con­struc­tion un­der the su­per­vi­sion of UN en­voy Staffan de Mis­tura. There are sim­ply too many hands in the Syr­ian pot. – Randa Takiya al-Din

(Reuters)

A SE­CU­RITY staff mem­ber stands at the en­trance of Saudi Ara­bia’s con­sulate in Is­tan­bul on Oc­to­ber 31.

(GPO/Un­dated hand­out via Reuters)

PRIME MIN­IS­TER Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu looks at maps with Sul­tan Qa­boos bin Said in Oman.

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