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VOICES FROM THE ARAB PRESS
A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world
IS THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION REGAINING ITS POPULARITY?
Al-Ittihad, UAE, August 12
In April 2019, former Democratic vice president Joe Biden announced his intention to run for US president in 2020, in the hope of defeating outgoing president Donald Trump.
Although the fame he earned following decades of public service made Biden a natural candidate to lead the 2019 Democratic primaries, his performance at rallies was disappointing. He was badly defeated in the all-important February 2020 New Hampshire primary by three stronger candidates. At that point, Biden was given a small chance of winning the nomination.
But then came the South Carolina primary on February 29, in which he won a landslide victory thanks to the huge support he received from black Americans, including his close friend Rep. James Clyburn.
Biden’s victory in the November elections was decisive; he received more than 81 million votes nationally, the highest number in American history.
The first days of the Biden presidency were marked by a sense of relief. Trump, despite his efforts to overturn the election results, retreated to his Florida residence. And the effectiveness of the new COVID-19 vaccines finally reduced the number of Americans infected with the virus. Much of the Western world greeted Biden and his team with joy, especially America’s close allies in Europe and Asia. Moreover, the US economy was showing signs of recovery and growth.
However, by the summer of 2021, new events began to weaken Biden’s popularity both at home and abroad.
The newly emergent Delta variant began to have a significant impact on the American public, which had become fed up with social distancing and masking requirements.
Then, in August 2021, Biden suddenly announced the imminent withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan, against the recommendation of the army and without consultations with the rest of the NATO allies deployed in the region. The withdrawal was marked by immense chaos, but it was an effective strategy to remove American forces from the country, following a 20-year war. Biden, however, was harshly criticized for abandoning loyal Afghans who had worked with NATO and the United States. He was also unable to prevent the Taliban from taking over, despite the promises it made to the Americans at the Doha peace negotiations in February 2022.
Even more alarming for Biden was the imminent inflation, which reached historic levels and brought US gas prices to an all-time high. Americans began to lose faith in the economy, and Biden’s numbers in opinion polls fell even below those of Trump.
By the early days of the summer of 2022, Biden was described as a one-term president, and calls for him to be satisfied with only one term began to increase within the Democratic Party.
But then, within a few weeks, the bad news started to change. Thanks to a number of positive events, Biden managed to revive his much-criticized administration.
Economic data showed surprisingly strong growth with record-low levels of unemployment. Inflation also started to decline, as gasoline prices began to fall.
On July 30, the CIA killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the architect of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, at
his residence in Kabul, without causing any collateral casualties.
Most importantly, the Democrats are on the verge of passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which will allocate nearly $700 billion to combat climate change, reduce drug costs, and raise corporate taxes. Democrats hope that this good news will finally have an impact on voters ahead of the November midterm elections.
Yet, expectations are still that Republicans could win enough seats to assert control over the House of Representatives, but perhaps not enough to achieve the big landslide victory they had hoped for. Therefore, the Democrats now hope to maintain control over the Senate – an outcome that would certainly be considered positive. – Jeffrey Kemp
PEOPLE WANT BREAD BEFORE GAS Al-Rai, Kuwait, August 10
The threats recently voiced by Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah are nothing but empty words. They’ll achieve nothing.
Before Nasrallah threatens Israel and promotes himself as the defender of Lebanon and its natural resources, can he ask himself why his party – which is nothing more than a local branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – does everything in its power to turn Lebanon into a poor and failed state, where people are begging for a loaf of bread?
The average Lebanese citizen wants a loaf of bread before he wants his government to extract gas from the ocean. Moreover, the ordinary Lebanese citizen understands that the Lebanese government needs many years to actually start extracting gas and benefiting from it.
Perhaps what the ordinary Lebanese citizen knows the most is that, in a matter of just a few weeks, Israel will start extracting gas from the Karish field and export it to Europe. This will happen with the full support and blessing of other countries in the region, including Egypt, and under the auspices of European and American heads of state, who are craving to import Israeli gas in light of the crisis with Russia. For quite some time now, Israel has been extracting gas from other fields located far away from Lebanese waters, in light of the increasing global need for energy and European insistence on gradually eliminating their dependence on Russian gas. Indeed, Israeli gas has become part of Europe’s security doctrine. Israel will export more gas to Europe once the Karish field is ready to be used.
On the other hand, Lebanon will stand idly by and observe these events unfold. The Lebanese government will continue to dig its head in the sand and talk about things like “pride” and “dignity” and the importance of the “resistance” but will do nothing for the betterment of its citizens. Nasrallah will continue to make empty threats by chanting slogans aimed at Israel.
But the reality is that the Lebanese people will continue to be impoverished and stripped of its dignity. Many Lebanese will not be able to afford bread or electricity. Their country’s education and healthcare system will continue to falter and fail.
Nasrallah’s threats do nothing but weaken the Lebanese people even further. Lebanon will remain unable to take any step aimed at benefiting from its wealth at sea. Lebanon is collapsing more and more daily. The country is destroying itself, and no one can prevent it from doing so. The world tried to help Lebanon, but to no avail.
At a time when Israel, supported by the international community, seems determined to exploit gas in Karish, Lebanon seems determined to continue to follow the logic of irrationality by warmly embracing Iran.
There is no force, at least in the foreseeable future, that can take Beirut out of this situation, which means a death sentence to the Lebanese state. The threats issued by Hezbollah are of no use except for the fact that they shed light on the ignorance that exists in our region of the world. – Kheirallah Kheirallah