Dienstag, 1. April 2008

Regional Update

Die erste Sammlung der Berichte und Artikel in und um das Treffen der [halben] Arabischen Liga in Damaskus.
While demonstrating Lebanon's place at the top of the Arab agenda, last weekend's Arab League summit in Damascus made plain the chasm separating regional supporters of Lebanon's feuding political camps, while host Syria looked strong in brushing away pressure to make any concessions in its support for Lebanon's opposition, a number of analysts told The Daily Star on Tuesday. Entrenching the split between Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which have allied themselves with the US and Lebanon's March 14 governing coalition, and Syria and summit guest Iran, which back Lebanon's March 8 opposition, only worsens the chances for a resolution between the two camps' Lebanese proxies, the analysts added. The weekend summit "polarized in the very clearest way the situation around Lebanon," said retired General Elias Hanna, who teaches political science at Notre Dame University. Saudi Arabia and Egypt sent junior diplomats as a snub of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, leaving Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal to call a news conference in Riyadh to demand that Syria be punished for interfering in Lebanon, while Assad in his speech opening the summit denied that Syria meddled in Lebanese affairs. ... Saudi Arabia and Egypt expected other Arab heads of state to follow their lead in avoiding the summit, but their strategy backfired as other leaders ignored their signal and they missed a chance to present their positions and push their aims, Safa said. The Saudi and Egyptian boycott "didn't work," Safa said. "That has stripped the Arabs of a golden opportunity to address the summit." Instead, Syria brought off the event, punctured its isolation in the Arab community and shepherded through a closing communiquŽ that reflected Syrian interests, he added. The summit "really displayed what I thought was a triumph in Syrian diplomacy," Safa said. [Text der Eröffnungsrede und weitere Artikel und Kommentare bei Landis.] Hizbullah chastised Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, on Tuesday, accusing him of unfairly blaming the oppositon for the failure of efforts to resolve the political impasse in Lebanon. "The Saudi foreign minister knows that the opposition has positively cooperated with all initiatives, including the Arab League initiative," a Hizbullah statement said. Saud's "position puts the Saudi role in Lebanon at stake as it implies that the kingdom is biased against the opposition and therefore cannot play a constructive role in Lebanon," the statement added. [...] Roadside bombings of American troops in Iraq were occurring with bloody regularity when military investigators made a disturbing discovery: American-made computer circuits sold to a trading company in the United Arab Emirates had turned up in the bomb detonators. That finding set off a clash with Washington last year when the Bush administration cited the diversion of the computer circuits to Iran, and eventually Iraq, as proof that the United Arab Emirates were failing to prevent American technology from slipping into the wrong hands. Administration officials said other so-called dual-use goods - including aircraft parts, specialized metals and gas detectors that have a potential military use - had also moved through Dubai, one of the emirates, to Iran, Syria or Pakistan. [...] In other developments on Tuesday, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that the Lebanese should only be concerned about the United States' policy toward Lebanon, irrespective of whether they liked or disliked US foreign policy in general. Speaking at a news conference about his recent visit to the US, Geagea emphasized that Palestinian refugees will never be naturalized in Lebanon. "Even if we falsely assume that the Americans want to naturalize Palestinians in Lebanon, we should not worry because there is no one Lebanese party that is in favor of such a move," he said. [...] Janine Zacharia, "Clash of interests keeps Lebanon unquiet": During six months of paralysis in electing a Lebanese president, Iranian and Syrian support for the Shiite Muslim party, Hezbollah, has flourished while the United States has tried to keep its Sunni ally, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, from being ousted. In this contest is the danger that Lebanon may turn into a full-fledged battleground in the ongoing conflict between the United States and Iran, which is allied with Syria to derail Lebanon's fragile democracy. [...] Jamil Theyabi, "Hollow Wounds and Uncertain Solutions!": Riyadh, Cairo, Amman, and Sanaa are faced with the same predicament - the necessity of solving the Lebanese crisis in line with the Arab vision and initiative. As for Damascus and Tehran, they find themselves in a different trench, that of trickery and defiance. A moderate camp opposes a defiant camp. Other Arab countries adopt different stances on Arab causes and open crises. [...] Raghida Dergham, "A New Phase for Saudi Arabia's Regional Role": A momentous event took place this week when Saudi Arabia ushered in a new era, as it departed from its traditional approach of avoiding open confrontations and called for interfaith dialogue in an initiative announced by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz himself. The decision to dispatch the Saudi ambassador at the Arab League to the Summit of kings, princes and presidents hosted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, heralds a new totally different era away from the traditional Saudi role. The de facto issue at hand is no less than the challenge of instituting a new regional order that can confront the regional one set up by Syria and Iran. Consequently, the Saudi leadership has no other choice but to adopt a comprehensive and qualitatively creative strategy that takes into consideration divisions at the Gulf, Arab, European and American levels without exception.

Während die IDF nach eigenen Angaben heute 138 trucks an humanitärem Material in den Gazastreifen fahren ließ und die Ägypter die Grenzen zum Austausch von gestrandeten öffneten bricht ein Streit über die medizinische Versorgung von Patienten aus dem Gazastreifen aus: A World Health Organization (WHO) report that sharply criticized the IDF's screening of Palestinians who seek medical treatment in Israeli hospitals was flatly rejected by defense officials on Tuesday, who called it "completely wrong." The report was released during a press conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday held by Ambrogio Manenti, the head of WHO in Gaza and the West Bank, who called Israeli policy when it comes to allowing Gazans into Israel for treatment "inhumane." Manenti said that case studies of patients who died while waiting for permits to travel to Israel for treatment "show nonsense, inhumanity and, at the end, tragedy". Ehud Barak gibt sich als softy: Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would consider reopening Gaza's border crossings if violence from the territory ceases, but defense officials warned Tuesday that such a move is a long way off. ... Two civilians were lightly wounded Tuesday morning when Palestinian militants [Hamas] in the Gaza Strip fired a mortar shell at the Negev kibbutz of Netiv Ha'asara. The mortar shell damaged a building and a powerline in the kibbutz. Die gefundenen Reste sollen iranischer Bauart sein. [...] Sami Moubayed über die strategische Lage: "Vice President Dick Cheney said last week that Hamas is doing all it can to torpedo the Mideast peace process -- but Ephraim Halevy, former head of Mossad, thinks it's time to include the Islamist group in peace talks. Who's right?" This is the question posted to panelists by PostGlobal. I think that it is now too late to talk peace with Hamas. 2005 would have been good. 2006 would have been perfect. But not anymore. Not in 2007-2008. [...] Patrick Seal, "The death of the Two-State-Solution".

The Knesset Tuesday passed the first law in Israel's history to regulate and protect the beaches of the country's largest waterway, Lake Kinneret. The law mandates the establishment of a single, unified agency, with enforcement powers, to be responsible for the Kinneret's beaches. It also extends the Coastal Environment Preservation Law, which mandates free access to public beaches along the Mediterranean and Red Seas and forbids damage to their coastlines, to the Kinneret as well. [...] The continued dumping of untreated or partially treated sewage into rivers and streams is the number one source of dangerous pollution in Israel, the Ministry for Environmental protection has said.

Fifteen years after the members of two Bedouin tribes from the Ovdat region in the Negev erected a protest tent outside the prime minister's office in Jerusalem – the National Council for Planning and Building saw fit to authorize the establishment of a permanent place of residence for Bedouins living in the area.

Benizri: I will not resign - MK Shlomo Benizri slams bribery conviction, claims will not resign until issue of moral turpitude determined. Calls charges against him 'biggest lie in history of Israel'

Editorial: Had Peace Now not published reports from time to time, it is doubtful anyone would have been aware of the continuing construction in the settlements. One might have assumed from the declarations by Ehud Olmert's government that construction had been suspended and that efforts were being made to reach a peace agreement to include withdrawal from most of the West Bank. From the complaints by the settlers' leadership as well, one might have concluded that there was a freeze on building and that the settler youth were really and truly homeless. But quite different things are happening in the territories. The dynamic of deception is continuing. Deception of the Americans, deception of the voters for parties that etched peace on their standard, deception of the Palestinians and above all self-deception. Our top leaders have joined together on a course that has no objective. These include Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose political path no one understands and which he himself is not bothering to clarify, the prime minister, who serves as a commentator on reality instead of shaping it, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is conducting negotiations on evacuation while the government is continuing to build. [...] Kontra durch Elyakim Haetzni: The Geneva Initiative organization recently held a conference aimed at "resolving" the "problem" of the settlements. Don't envy them – this is an impossible mission.

Israel's central bank on Tuesday forecast the country's 2008 economic growth at 3.2 percent, compared to 5.3 percent in 2007, but officials said they did not see Israel entering a recession. Presenting the Bank of Israel's 2007 report, US-trained governor Stanley Fischer told reporters that the fall was due to the general sluggishness of world economies, particularly that of the United States. "The Israeli economy is dealing in the current period with a very complex situation," Fischer said. "There is no doubt that the Israeli market will be affected by the slowdown in world growth." An extract of the report published by the bank said a budget deficit of 1.5 percent of gross domestic product was foreseen for 2008, compared to the balanced budget of 2007.

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