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Voices from the Arab Press: Winds of peace with Israel felt in Iraqi skies DinarDailyUpdates?bg=330099&fg=FFFFFF&anim=1

Voices from the Arab Press: Winds of peace with Israel felt in Iraqi skies

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Voices from the Arab Press: Winds of peace with Israel felt in Iraqi skies Empty Voices from the Arab Press: Winds of peace with Israel felt in Iraqi skies

Post by GirlBye Thu Oct 22, 2020 12:44 pm

Voices from the Arab Press: Winds of peace with Israel felt in Iraqi skies 465314

A recent opinion poll commissioned by the Arab American Institute and conducted by pollster John Zogby tested the Arab street’s reaction to the recent UAE-Israel peace deal. The poll revealed massive, unprecedented support. For example, in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, support stood at 59%, while in the UAE it stood at 58%. This data is congruent with what we’re witnessing on social media platforms, where Arabs are posting and sharing content that is welcoming of the peace treaty.

Quite remarkably, even in Iraq, people are commenting about the deal and expressing their desire to see a similar agreement between their own government and that of Israel. Some have gone as far as posting messages of praise and longing for Iraq’s long-gone Jewish community. What is the source of this fundamental change, especially among Iraqis? From the Iraqi point of view, there is no border or territorial dispute with Israel. The animosity historically stems from support for the Palestinian cause. But years of Palestinian political stagnation are taking their toll on public opinion.

Iraqis also remember their common history with the country’s Jews a shared language, culture and traditions. More importantly, the fingerprints of Iraq’s Jewish community are still very much felt, and certainly remembered, in Iraq. Iraqis reminisce over their Jewish compatriots as ones who were loyal to the Iraqi homeland. The name Sassoon Eskell, regarded as the Father of Parliament during his tenure as minister of finance, often comes up in these discussions. How grateful Iraqis would be to have another Eskell today, a time when their country is being robbed and depleted of its resources by internal and external thieves.

The educated Iraqi sees peace with Israel as an opportunity for cooperation with a country that has become a pioneer in technology, science, medicine, agriculture and water conservation. These Israeli innovations could help improve living conditions in Iraq, just like they did in so many other places in the world. From a political perspective, the average Iraqi believes that establishing relations with Israel would also ease Iran’s grip on the country.

In sum, I believe that the youth of Iraq have launched a hypothetical normalization process with Israel. While polls conducted two years ago already revealed a willingness to normalize ties with Israel (with support hovering around the 40% mark), I believe this figure would be significantly higher today.
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Bandar Bin Sultan and the discourse of realism and openness

The facts and figures revealed by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a member of the House of Saud and Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the US, in a recent documentary aired on the Al Arabiya channel are a remarkable piece of history not only because they were delivered by a high-ranking political, security and diplomatic figure intimately familiar with regional issues, but also because they provide a detailed diagnosis of the Palestinian problem today. In his interviews, Bandar reveals that the biggest obstacle standing in the Palestinians’ way to forming an independent state has been a corrupt leadership that has wasted every opportunity.

This testimony confirms that the Palestinian leadership, for more than seven decades, did not fulfill its role in defending the Palestinian cause. Instead, it was always betting on the losing side, causing further suffering for the Palestinian people. The most recent manifestation of this inability to accurately read the region’s political developments came in the form of the Palestinian rejection of the peace agreements between the UAE, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Israel.

The other interesting revelation made in Bandar’s interviews is the fact that Iran and Turkey have both managed to hijack the Palestinian cause for nearly a quarter of a century, using it to cover up their expansionist projects in the region. The only real supporters of the Palestinian cause have been Gulf leaders despite repeated Palestinian moves against Gulf interests, such as support for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

Prince Bandar sums up the dilemma of the Palestinian issue in the past and present with an accurate description when he says that the Palestinian issue is a just cause, but its lawyers failed. It is indeed a just cause that was and still is  supported by international forces and all peace-loving people of the world. The problem is that it always has been handled by Palestinian leaders ill-advised and unequipped to represent their people. At a time when these leaders are supposed to work to unify Palestinian ranks and adopt a single vision vis-a-vis Israel, they unfortunately exacerbate divisions and rivalry within Palestinian society. This has allowed Israel to prove that there is no real Palestinian partner with whom it can enter into serious negotiations. The ultimate victims, time and again, have been the Palestinian people.

The testimony of Prince Bandar establishes a new political discourse toward the Palestinian issue characterized by realism, frankness and transparency. This moment of openness and frankness shouldn’t be wasted. It is an opportunity to readjust the Palestinian compass and force the Palestinian leadership to waste no more time. The opportunities of today might not repeat themselves tomorrow. The Palestinian leadership must make bold decisions instead of missing out on opportunities and then crying over spilled milk.

Rabat and Tehran: Decades of tension

In an interview with Sky News Arabia last week, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita unequivocally affirmed that Morocco will continue to adhere to its position on severing its ties with Iran, and that relations will remain as they are in light of Tehran’s continuous threats to Morocco’s stability. Over the years, Morocco-Iran relations have known many ups and downs. In the era of the shah, the two countries shared many common characteristics, not least of which was their representation of two ancient monarchies in the region.
The two countries were also among the only ones in the region that allied themselves with the West during the Cold War. The Shi’ite characteristic of Iran did not have a large presence in Iranian society before the revolution led by Imam Khomeini, as the Shi’ite clerics lived in semi-isolation from politics and focused most of their activity on religious seminaries in Qom. The fall of the shah and the establishment of a theocratic regime in Tehran contributed to the disengagement between the two countries. The two countries that had once been closely aligned entered into an era of confrontation and competition. And yet, Moroccan-Iranian relations are more complex than they appear on the surface.

The Moroccan decision two-and-a-half years ago to sever ties with Tehran came after the revelation that the Iranian Embassy in Algeria maintained close ties with the Polisario Front, a rebel national liberation movement aiming to end the Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara. Moroccan sources revealed that Iran was providing the Polisario with training, including by facilitating the flow of Hezbollah fighters into the region. There are three main explanations as to why Morocco is so wary of Iran’s behavior.

The first is that the Sahara will quickly become a clashing ground between Russia and the US, with each side supporting an opposing party. The US will work to strengthen Morocco’s stance in the region while Russia works to undermine it. For example, the ambitious Moroccan project of establishing a gas pipeline linking Nigeria to Europe would significantly weaken Russia’s influence over Europe. Russia may want to undermine such a project, in part by strengthening Iran’s grip over the region.

The second explanation has to do with Iran’s continuous work to subtly spread its version of Shi’ism in the region, especially in West Africa. The third explanation has to do with Morocco’s increased relations with Gulf states, especially in the aftermath of the Gulf-Moroccan summit. Despite ups and downs in relations between Rabat, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, the three countries have grown closer and more committed to each other’s security. These three possibilities explain, albeit in different ways, Morocco’s decision to cut its ties with Tehran.

How do we prepare for the second wave?

The whole world is preparing for the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic. This does not mean that a second wave is inevitable; rather, that states should prepare for the virus to strike back and do everything in their power to prepare. In Egypt, this conversation has been overlooked. But it’s time that our country prepared for the implications of a second wave particularly, in our case, the economic ones. What is clear is that during the first wave, Egypt thankfully performed much better than other countries.
Even if we assume that the number of cases in the country was actually higher than declared due to the fact that not everyone got tested or reported their symptoms, we fared fairly well. Granted, every COVID-related death is a tragedy and an unnecessary death. But Egypt, as a whole, managed to maintain relatively low mortality rates across the country.

On the other hand, the economic repercussions of the first wave were, and still are, severe. Egypt did not manage this aspect of the pandemic well. The losses suffered in tourism, entertainment, non-essential goods and services, and private transportation, among sectors, are insurmountable. On top of that, there is the inevitable decrease in tax revenues due to the slowdown in economic activity. All of these effects could easily be repeated in a second wave unless we prepare properly.

But the old mechanism used by the government will not prevail again. Neither the imposition of curfews nor the closing of stores and shops would be possible in light of high unemployment. Further, the government has no resources to support the unemployed or continue covering its deficit. My suggestion, therefore, is that we prepare for the second wave in three tracks.
The first is recognizing that the possibility of closing public and commercial activities is almost non-existent  unless the second wave is more powerful than we imagine and making every effort to raise awareness to preventive methods. In addition, the government should help workplaces, construction sites, government departments, schools, universities and places of worship set up the right infrastructure to allow for social distancing while maintaining normal activity.

The second track is the completion of the efforts that began in the wake of the first wave to improve the technological infrastructure and transfer all activity that can happen remotely to electronic transactions.
The third track relates to the business climate. Given the high unemployment, the government must help everyone who still has the desire and ability to work. This will not be achieved by amending laws, changing regulations or forming committees. Rather, it requires a political decision at the highest levels that forces government agencies to ease restrictions, bypass minor violations and reduce the complexity of procedures.

I do not call for tax evasion crimes to be overlooked, construction permits dispensed with or fraud to be normalized, but there is a minimum level of restrictions, obstacles and minor violations that only obstruct activity, open the gates of corruption and hinder small investors. We must make it easy to work and consume. Perhaps experts are wrong and a second wave will not happen. Either way, Egypt should be prepared.

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