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GIVE NOW A FINAL PUSH
FOR PALESTINE

Cover Story

SYED TAUSIEF AUSAF dwells deep into how the rise of pro-Islam parties in some Muslim countries as a result of the Arab Spring has given Israelis sleepless nights, and calls upon the Arab and Muslim world to seize this opportunity and collectively give a final push for the permanent settlement of the issue of Palestine.

The Arab Spring of 2011 that saw the back of four Arab dictators has unfortunately overshadowed the ‘Mission Liberate Palestine’. But ‘the year of the protester’ had a bright side too. The tremors caused by the fall of the strongmen in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have given Israelis sleepless nights for America’s stooges are no longer in charge in their neighbourhood.

According to Khalil Shikaki, an eminent pollster and interpreter of Palestinian public opinion, even before the Arab Spring, the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations were more or less dead. However, the Arab Spring is affecting the choices that Israelis and Palestinians are making. While a dazed Israel is toughening its position, Hamas is clearly moving away from its relationship with Iran and Syria and getting closer to Egypt and Jordan, which are leading them to conclude that they can now gain much greater access to the Arab world. With Bashar Assad’s brutal Baathist crackdown on Syrian protesters reaching incredible proportions, it was wise on Hamas’s part to move to Egypt.

The changes provide Hamas with the opportunity to try to break through the siege around Gaza. Hamas needs access to material goods and products to rebuild Gaza, gain access to financial support for the region and so on. The Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt has opened and with the Brotherhood-Salafist bloc set to take reins in Cairo, Gazans can assure themselves of a secure future – a thorn in Israel’s side.

 

JORDAN’S FEARS

Meanwhile, King Abdallah of Jordan feels threatened by the changes in the region and by the rising demands of their own public, particularly conservatives. The regime feels the need to appease their hardliners and this is pushing the Jordanians to bring Hamas back into Jordan and normalise relations – bad news for Israel.

Parallel to this is change in the West Bank, where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas feels that the international effort that he’s leading to gain recognition of a Palestinian state might benefit from much larger public participation along the lines of the Arab Spring, with massive Palestinian public participation in nonviolent efforts, demonstrations and so on against Israeli occupation and in support of the UN bid.

As long as the US is perceived as being one-sided and biased in favour of Israel, any pressure against the Palestinians would be futile. But if the U.S. is seen as serious in putting pressure on the Israelis, that’s going to change everything. Once the Palestinians begin to see U.S. pressure in terms of moving the process forward rather than in terms of serving Israeli interests, U.S. economic and financial support becomes a very effective tool and U.S. political support for the leadership and for the process will certainly become very important. At the moment the Palestinian public doesn’t see the U.S. position as being balanced by any means.

To some extent Arab countries believe that the problem the Palestinians face is Israeli occupation, and this occupation seemed to be consolidated day after day because of American and Western support. So, in the Arab narrative, this conflict is fuelled by American and European support for Israel and if the Arabs give a lot of money to the Palestinian Authority their contribution would only help to maintain the status quo, which Arabs reject. In that sense, they’re really not all that motivated to come up with the financial support.

 

TREMENDOUS EXPECTATIONS

There were tremendous expectations after Barack Obama’s Cairo speech three years ago and the U.S. seemed to be moving in a direction that the Arabs welcomed very much, but they reserved judgment until they could see the results on the ground. And what they saw was how the U.S. approached the Israeli-Palestinian question, how the U.S. was quick to abandon the demand for settlement freeze, how the U.S. was willing to basically allow [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to dictate the terms for the process. Arabs in general felt disillusioned and betrayed by the Obama administration. The Palestinians in particular were the ones who felt this more than anybody else, but it is true all over the Arab world.

Israel’s belligerence has cost it dearly.

Turkey downgraded its relations with Israel, expelling the country’s ambassador and cutting military ties with its former ally over Israel’s refusal to apologise for an armed assault on a Gaza-borne aid flotilla that killed nine people.

The move, which takes Turkish-Israeli relations to a new low, came on the day a UN report into the Gaza flotilla incident was published. It found that Israelis had used “excessive and unreasonable” force to stop the flotilla approaching Gaza, but that it was justified in maintaining a naval blockade on the Palestinian enclave.

Turkey’s tough talk is a very positive sign.

“The time has come for Israel to pay for its stance that sees it above international laws and disregards human conscience,” Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu said. “The first and foremost result is that Israel is going to be devoid of Turkey’s friendship … as long as the Israeli government does not take the necessary steps, there will be no turning back.”

Davutoglu also said Turkey would take measures in the future to protect its shipping, without going into detail.

The UN investigation chaired by Geoffrey Palmer, a former New Zealand prime minister, focused on the events of May 31 last year on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-flagged vessel which was the largest ship in a flotilla aimed at breaking the Gaza blockade. It was boarded by Israeli commandoes who were resisted by some of those on board. Nine pro-Palestinian activists – eight Turkish citizens and a Turkish American – were killed in the raid.

 

ISRAEL: A SPOILED CHILD

All UN decisions and statements are always made in favour of Israel, no matter what they have done. Israel has become like a spoiled child, the spoiled child of the US.

Iran’s rising nuclear capability is a welcome headache for the Jewish state.

Iranian scientists have produced the nation’s first nuclear fuel rod. The announcement marks another step in Tehran’s efforts to achieve proficiency in the entire nuclear fuel cycle — from exploring uranium ore to producing nuclear fuel — despite U.N. sanctions and measures by the U.S. and others to get it to halt aspects of its atomic work that could provide a possible pathway to weapons production.

There is a strong speculation that Israel is bound to mount an attack on Iranian nuclear sites, a threat which the Zionist regime has frequently repeated and an idea which, if translated into action, will bring about apocalyptic consequences for the Zionist entity.

Reportedly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently sought to drum up cabinet support for a military strike against the nuclear sites of the Islamic republic of Iran. In joint efforts with the defence minister Ehud Barak, Netanyahu has succeeded in wringing support for such a reckless act from the sceptics who were already opposed to launching an attack on Iran.

There are still those in the Israeli cabinet who are against such a move including Interior Minister Eli Yishai of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, Strategic Affairs Minister and Netanyahu confidant Moshe Yaalon, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, army chief Benny Gantz, the head of Israel’s intelligence agency Tamir Pardo, the chief of military intelligence Aviv Kochavi and the head of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Yoram Cohen.

However, the support voiced by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is considered an ace in the hole for Netanyahu who also enjoys the full-throated support of Washington.

Last week’s war games by the Iranian Navy in the Strait of Hormuz showed Tehran’s missile prowess and Naval capabilities. Iran’s brinkmanship at this point of time was the need of the hour. Israel test-fired a nuke capable missile in Nov. last which cannot be taken as a coincidence considering the threat made by Netanyahu.

Reacting to it, Netanyahu said: “A nuclear Iran will pose a serious threat to the Middle East and the entire world, and it of course poses a direct and heavy threat to us.” But the Zionist leader must remember that the entire Muslim world considers the Jewish state a threat to humanity – the cancer of the Middle East.

There seems to be a united front against Iran in the Israeli cabinet but as far as a military strike is concerned, there is a difference of opinion as to the sanity of such an act and the looming consequences it may incur.

 

IRAN’S MISSILE INDUSTRY

From a military point of view, Iran is known as the best in the region and one of the best in the world in terms of missile industry.

The successful production of the short-, medium- and long-range missiles Shahab (Meteor) and Sejjil (Baked Clay), Saqeb (falling stone) and Sayyad (Hunter), Fateh (Conqueror) and Zelzal (Temblor), Misaq (Covenant) and Ra’ad (Thunder), Toufan (Storm) and Safar (Journey) bears testimony to this claim. The country has so far succeeded in producing more than 50 types of high-tech missiles as part of its deterrent strategy for enhancing military might as it has always been exposed to threats by the Zionist regime and Washington.

A senior Iranian commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh has already stated that Iran has the know-how to build missiles with over 2,000 kilometres but since the US and Israeli targets are within the reach of the current missiles, the country does not see any point in doing so.

“Iran’s missiles have a range of up to 2,000 kilometres and have been designed for US and the Zionist regime (Israel)’s bases in the region,” he added.

According to the Iranian commander, as there is a distance of 1,200 kilometres between Iran and Israel, Iran is already capable of targeting the Zionist regime with the current missiles. Needless to say, Sejjil (Baked Clay) and Shahab missiles rank among the missiles capable of targeting objects within a range of 2,000 kilometres.

 

EGYPTIANS EXERT RIGHT TO PROTEST

With Hosni Mubarak’s departure, Egyptians gave themselves the long denied right to protest. After Israeli forces gunned down five Egyptian soldiers in an unprovoked act, Egyptians’ anger reached the tipping point.

Egypt nearly withdrew its ambassador from Israel, and protesters demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Calls have grown in Egypt for ending the historic 1979 peace treaty with Israel, a pact that has never had the support of ordinary Egyptians.

Protesters broke into the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and dumped documents out of the windows as hundreds more demonstrated outside, prompting the ambassador and his family to leave the country. The unrest was a further worsening of the already deteriorating ties between Israel and post-Mubarak Egypt.

Egyptian police made no attempt to intervene during the day as crowds of hundreds tore down an embassy security wall with sledgehammers and their bare hands or after nightfall when about 30 protesters stormed into the Nile-side high-rise building where the embassy is located.

Just before midnight, the group of protesters reached a room on one of the embassy’s lower floors at the top of the building and began dumping Hebrew-language documents from the windows, said an Egyptian security official.

Israel’s ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon, his family and other embassy staff rushed to Cairo airport and left on a military plane for Israel, said airport officials.

Since the fall of Mubarak – who worked closely with the Israelis – in February, ties have steadily worsened between the two countries.

Given the current volatile situation, Israel obviously cannot afford to start a misadventure in the region. Although under US sanctions, Iran is unstoppable and is showing no signs of backing off.

Israel is under pressure from the US to hold peace talks with Abbas, who has warned to take more unilateral steps if Israel does not agree to halt settlement building in the occupied West Bank and recognise the borders of a future Palestinian state.

He said Palestinians were ready to take “difficult” measures, but did not specify what they were.

The Palestinians say they cannot hold talks while Israel cements its hold on land it usurped in a 1967 war and on which they intend to establish an independent state.

Abbas said the two sides had until Jan. 26 to make progress. The date marks the three-month deadline, agreed on Oct. 26, for them to make proposals on issues of territory and security, with the aim of reaching a peace deal by the end of this year.

The acceptance of Palestine as a full member of the UNESCO has left Tel Aviv and Washington fuming. It only shows that both countries do not want Palestinians to have an independent state with 1967 borders and Jerusalem as its capital.

 

RISE OF PRO-ISLAM PARTIES

If the international community further toughens its stance on Syria and the Arab League agrees to allow the Western intervention in Syria to end violence, pro-Islam elements will certainly rise. Bashar Assad only enjoys the support of minorities like Christians, Druze and Alawites. Sixty per cent of Syria’s population is Sunni Muslim who forms the largest chunk of protesters.

In Tunisia, Ennahda Islamic group has come to power after elections. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists are about to take power in Egypt.

In post-Mauammar Qaddafi Libya, moderate Islamic elements have taken the reins.

Yemen is due to go to polls now and nothing can stop Yemeni voters from empowering religious elements in Sanaa.

There has been no warmth in the relations between Jordan and Israel for obvious reasons.

American forces have left Iraq and there is no love lost between post-Saddam Baghdad – under heavy Iranian influence – and Tel Aviv.

The Arab and Muslim world should seize this opportunity and collectively give a final push for the permanent settlement of the issue of Palestine.

[The writer, based in Jeddah, can be reached at tausief@hotmail.com]



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