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Middle East Press on AlUla Summit, Netanyahu's Treatment of Arabs, GERD Talks and GCC: New Age Islam's Selection, 7 January 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

 7 January 2021

• Netanyahu Should Treat Arabs Better If He Wants Their Votes

By Ray Hanania

• Alula Summit Is A Healing Moment Of Reunification

By Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

• World Must Unite To Defeat Houthis And Save Yemen

By Maria Maalouf

• Future Of GERD Talks Blurry As Sudan Stands Firm

By Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy

• With Sudan Signing Abraham Accords, Israel Tightens Grip In Africa, Red Sea Basin

By Rina Bassist

• Is Israel Discriminating Against Palestinians With Vaccine?

By Seth Frantzman

• Has The GCC Crisis Been Resolved?

By Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

• Pardons And Iraq: A Familiar Story

By Andrew Mitrovica


Netanyahu Should Treat Arabs Better If He Wants Their Votes

By Ray Hanania

January 07, 2021

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not my favorite Israeli leader, but he has managed to win election after election and continues to have the greatest influence on what happens to my relatives and friends who struggle to survive there.

Netanyahu is the quintessential politician and he knows better than most how to manage and manipulate public opinion to his advantage. That is why I am not surprised that the Israeli PM has announced plans to mount a campaign to win support from Israel’s Palestinian voters, who represent 20 percent of the country’s population. It is a smart strategic move to build support in the run-up to the next election, which is expected to be held on March 23.

Netanyahu has served a total of more than 15 years over his two spells as Israel’s prime minister. He, more than anyone else in the Middle East, has influence over Palestinian lives, human rights and statehood. Yet, despite all that time in power, Netanyahu has already had to struggle through three elections in the past two years. While facing charges of corruption, Netanyahu failed to win a decisive victory in the most recent election last March, but he still managed to land on top in a coalition with his chief rival, Benny Gantz.

Gantz, who is slightly less conservative than his coalition partner, was supposed to share the prime minister’s role, but Netanyahu orchestrated the collapse of the governing agreement and now believes he can win outright in March.

One bump in the road for Netanyahu was the rise of the Palestinian Arab vote in the last election. Clearly, this community is a minority that cannot be ignored. However, until now, that is exactly what Netanyahu has done. In the last election, he fanned the flames of racism by warning that, if he did not win Jewish support, the Arabs might take over.

Having reported on US and Western elections for nearly 45 years, I know that racism is sometimes less about race and more about politics. Smart politicians “manage” race and racial issues to manipulate voter turnout. Oftentimes, it is not because they are racist but because they see race as an instrument that could help ensure an election victory. It may be an amoral strategy, but the manipulation of race is often seen in Western elections.

Instead of fomenting racist division in Israel, as he did last year, Netanyahu has this time decided to pander to the Palestinian Arabs. They are a prime target for his manipulation considering that their own leaders have never truly understood the fundamentals of elections and always seem to rely on emotions rather than strategy.

That weakness in the Palestinian Arab leadership probably explains why the community’s vote has never reached its true potential. If it did, Palestinian Arab voters, who make up 20 percent of the electorate, should be able to elect 24 representatives to the 120-member Israeli Knesset. The most they have ever achieved is 17. With seven more seats, the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel could pretty much determine who will be the next prime minister and reverse the Israeli government’s embrace of apartheid policies and its opposition to the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Netanyahu sees that and, if he can’t decisively win by fomenting anti-Arab hate among Israeli Jews, then as a politician he will try to manage at least a portion of that vote so that he won’t have to share power once again.

He also understands how emotional the Palestinian Arab population is. It is not inconceivable that these victims of violence and crime will find themselves looking toward their oppressor for answers. It would be like a variation of the famous Stockholm syndrome, which sees hostages bond with their captors.

All Netanyahu needs to do is show more concern and compassion for the Palestinian Arabs, not in terms of nationalism but in terms of treating them more equally. Israel has adopted more than 65 laws that discriminate against non-Jews. Without losing his right-wing conservative support, which opposes Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu could reduce the racism and increase non-Jewish rights to almost being equal.

He just needs to win a small portion of the Palestinian Arab vote to solidify his leadership and maybe even wriggle out of the corruption prosecution that looms over him. He certainly has an open road to try. The Palestinian Arab leaders in Israel have never reached their full potential and really don’t understand the power that strategic communications has on election results. They will respond to his strategy by advancing a very emotion-driven campaign, as they are already doing.

If Netanyahu can maintain clarity in his purpose and truly make a difference to the lives of Israel’s non-Jews, reaching out to win Arab votes would be a smart move.


Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at Twitter: @RayHanania


AlUla Summit Is A Healing Moment Of Reunification

By Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri

January 07, 2021


His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahd Bin Mahmud, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and Nayef al-Hajraf, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) posing for a picture before the opening session of the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in the northwestern Saudi city of AlUla.

Image Credit: Dubai media office


The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in AlUla this week will surely be remembered as the summit of reunification. It will be recognized as the moment when the countries of the GCC finally turned the page on a crisis in the region that had gone on for three years. The supreme interest of the peoples of the council’s six member nations has prevailed and the process of cooperation has been relaunched, paving the way for a new future.

What distinguishes this entity — formed 41 years ago to counter challenges and threats to Gulf security and stability — has been its efforts to develop economies and foster cooperation in various other fields. There are ties that bind the GCC countries and link them together that are not found in other similar entities, or even among other Arab countries.

Working as a single system, therefore, the GCC countries can confront the urgency of the surrounding crises and take necessary actions and steps, despite their differences, to pursue the greater interests of all.

If we weigh the size of the challenges facing the GCC against the scale of the differences between its members, we find the challenges are greater. At the same time, the awareness of all GCC leaders has led them to rise above the problems of the past and put them aside as they work to realize the hopes and aspirations of their people. These are mainly based on advancing the pace of development, which is naturally tied to economic progress.

The circumstances the GCC countries find themselves in today include threats from Iran, including terrorism carried out by Tehran’s sectarian militias. This makes the political and security file the most pressing and the most important due to the potential consequences. This issue initially represented a point of disagreement and then came full circle to form the point of agreement after GCC members unanimously agreed to counter the challenges and threats.

These points were clearly stated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who opened the summit on behalf of King Salman. The statement read out by him emphasized the importance of “Gulf, Arab and Islamic solidarity and stability, and strengthening the bonds of friendship and brotherhood between our countries and peoples in order to serve their hopes and aspirations. There is a need to unite our efforts to advance our region and confront the challenges that surround us, especially the threats posed by the Iranian regime’s nuclear program, its ballistic missile program, and its destructive sabotage projects that it and its proxies adopt through terrorist and sectarian activities which aim at destabilizing security and stability in the region.”

The GCC has always played many roles; the liberation of Kuwait in the 1990s after Saddam Hussein’s invasion is one example that clearly illustrates its joint work toward a common goal.

In the same way, the threat to Bahrain posed by militias supported by Tehran was confronted and halted. Had no action been taken, Manama would have been thrown into a downward spiral of chaos and devastation. Thanks however to the Peninsula Shield, which supported Bahrain, the efforts of Tehran’s saboteurs and militias were thwarted.

Today, too, the Arab Coalition — the strength of which comes from the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia — is working to restore Yemeni legitimacy and return the country to its citizens after Iranian-backed Houthi militias hijacked and terrorized it.

The region remains in conflict. Tehran is on one side with its ideology of terror that exports malicious sectarian revolution, using terrorism and terrorist militias, as well as anything else it can, to destroy the region’s security and stability.

The other side is represented by the GCC countries that export wealth and aim to build economies that lead to prosperity. They support economic improvement and utilize every available means of development in a quest for projects, incomes and revenues that are not dependent only on oil, in an effort to achieve prosperity for all the people of the region.

The two sides — Iran and the GCC — are very different. One is linked to death, destruction and terrorism, while the other is linked to growth, prosperity and life. This simple fact is what made the leaders of the region realize that the destructive Iranian plans would destroy everyone and everything if the GCC is not united in its efforts.

The leaders must work together to close the files on the other disputes that Tehran fosters and benefits from. There is no doubt that after the AlUla Agreement, Tehran will find itself isolated and alone.

The GCC has united against Iran and acted to neutralize the danger and terror it promotes. This new action will see the region and its people blessed, and the member nations will enjoy security, stability and economic prosperity.


Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar.


World Must Unite To Defeat Houthis And Save Yemen

By Maria Maalouf

January 07, 2021

The brutal and vicious attack by the Houthis against the civilian airport in Aden last month, which killed at least 26 people and injured scores of others, while causing significant damage to that important facility and its surrounding areas, was an act of terrorism. It was a devastating blow to every sincere effort to end the civil war in Yemen by finding a political solution. Calls for the punishment of the Houthis are justified. However, more important for Yemen is the urgent need to eliminate the wicked influence of Iran in the country, which has thrown this nation of almost 30 million into a bloody quagmire of turmoil and instability.

The details of the Dec. 30 attack are horrific. There was an explosion as soon as a plane carrying the war-torn country’s recently formed government from Saudi Arabia landed at the airport. None of the Cabinet members were among the victims, but aid workers were hurt. However, this is just one part of a series of savagely cruel actions that the Houthis have inflicted on Yemen and its people since the beginning of the civil war in 2014.

The Riyadh Agreement of November 2019 carries significant political weight. It promises an end to the fighting and prepares Yemen for a better future. It creates a process of national reconciliation through the establishment of a power-sharing formula, the strengthening of the state’s institutions, the return of a number of politicians and leaders, official recognition of the forces loyal to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior, and in having Saudi Arabia as the sponsor of its implementation. Its effectiveness is manifested in an accord between the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Southern Transitional Council. No country can care for the well-being of Yemen without pointing to the relevance of the Riyadh Agreement, which laid the foundation for peace in the country.

Previously, the Houthis agitated to undermine the Stockholm Agreement that was signed in December 2018. It instituted a mechanism to deliver humanitarian aid to Hodeidah and its port, Taiz, and the ports of Salif and Ras Isa. The Houthis never honored that accord.

The Houthis have brought havoc to Yemen through their murderous acts of terrorism. Their madness has seen them terrify the populations of the areas they control, launch missile attacks against ships off the Yemeni coast, and bomb oil installations in Saudi Arabia.

The authority and wisdom of the Arab countries’ moderation stands clear regarding the strife in Yemen. The Houthis must be beaten back to ensure a better future for Yemen and the entire Middle East. The sanctions regimes on the Houthis have to change. They currently hold accountable only a few officials within this movement by freezing their financial assets and preventing transactions with them.

But its military capabilities remain intact. This enables the Houthis to kill innocent people. Regrettably, there will be more attacks similar to the Aden airport incident unless the Houthis’ weapons are confiscated.

There is a necessity to initiate a strategic military order in Yemen to bring about conditions unfavorable to the survival of the Houthis. This could contain them and defeat them militarily. This should be followed by their retreat from the provinces they have seized.

While the Trump administration attempts to classify the Houthis as a terror group, the Biden transition team seems hesitant in that critical pursuit. This misrepresents who the Houthis are and denies their inhuman characteristics. The whole world must heed the call for the decisive defeat of the Houthis. Any other alternative would only deepen the agony of the millions of innocent people in Yemen.


Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher, and writer. She holds an MA in Political Sociology from the University of Lyon.


Future Of GERD Talks Blurry As Sudan Stands Firm

By Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy

January 06, 2021

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, under the auspices of the South Africa-chaired African Union (AU), are proceeding with great difficulty. The disputing parties agreed in their last meeting on Monday to hold another meeting on Jan. 10, but the difficulty lies in the pitfalls they face at almost every meeting.

The latest meeting witnessed the withdrawal of the Sudanese side. It refused to participate after receiving an invitation to continue with the direct tripartite negotiations instead of a bilateral meeting with AU experts, which it had requested. Sudan based its position on the outcomes of the tripartite ministerial meeting on the filling and operation of the GERD, which was held on Sunday.

The Sudanese government announced that the decision to withdraw was confirmation of its firm position on the necessity of giving a role to AU experts in the efforts to facilitate the negotiations and bridge the gaps between the three parties. Khartoum also affirmed its adherence to the negotiating process under the auspices of the AU based on the principle of African solutions to African problems, provided that experts play a more effective role in facilitating the negotiations.

The Sudanese position embarrassed the other parties, as Egypt is extraordinarily keen on the interests of the Sudanese people and Ethiopia considers Khartoum a great strategic ally in these negotiations. Addis Ababa does not want to lose a fierce fighter from its side, but on the ground it seems that Sudan is playing solo.

It was agreed to raise the matter with the minister of international relations and cooperation in South Africa in her capacity as the current president of the AU. It is hoped that future steps will be discussed during the six-party ministerial meeting scheduled for Jan. 10, especially since the course of negotiations requires the participation of all three countries when reaching a binding agreement on the rules of filling and operation of the GERD.

Sudan considers that progress was made in the last round, with the parties agreeing to discuss a compromise draft prepared by the AU committee of experts related to bridging the gaps between the three drafts submitted by Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia last August. This step, in Sudan’s view, means a transformation of the African committee of experts from a mere mediator to a facilitator, which will push the negotiation process forward and end the stalemate that has lasted for several years.

But there is a fundamental disagreement between Egypt and Sudan regarding the extent of the reliance on experts. Cairo believes that reliance could go beyond the AU, especially if Sudan’s technical priorities continue to be limited to water retention, periodic flow and other issues that Egypt deems important, rather than the most important and most demanding issues that need to be resolved.

The two countries also differ on periods of drought and prolonged drought, as Egypt proposes passing 37 billion cubic meters as a median figure between what Ethiopia was demanding (32 billion) and what Egypt was demanding (40 billion). But Sudan considers that adhering to the new number proposed by Egypt does not fit with Ethiopia’s efforts to fill the GERD reservoir in earnest. There is also a dispute over Ethiopia’s water-use plan: Whether it is for energy production, agriculture or other purposes.

Nevertheless, there is agreement between Egypt and Sudan on most of the legal issues facing Ethiopia, as well as on the binding nature of the deal that will be signed. There are also common ideas about establishing a dispute settlement mechanism regarding the operation of the dam and the filling of the reservoir. That will see a mediator chosen by each of the three countries and negotiations conducted between the mediators under a legal arbitration system until a decision is reached.

Egypt and Sudan also agree on opposing Ethiopia’s desire to convert the agreement into a deal on Nile waters quotas, thereby canceling the 1959 agreement between Cairo and Khartoum. They also oppose Ethiopia’s wish to demand prior approval for the establishment of other water projects on the course of the Blue Nile and to apply the GERD’s guiding rules on them.

On the technical level, Egypt pays great attention to the idea of linking the dams, the annual amount of flow, the quality of water, and the actions that will be carried out on them, while the Sudanese are primarily concerned with the need to develop a clear program for the continuous and permanent filling of the reservoir and the daily flow volume from the dam.

The future of the negotiations is now blurry. The Egyptian government stressed, before the latest round of negotiations, the need to reach an agreement at the earliest possible opportunity, and particularly before the start of the second phase of filling the dam’s reservoir. It wants any deal to satisfy the common interests of the three countries and secure the rights and water interests of Egypt.

Strangely, this matter comes after hostile statements made by former Ethiopian diplomats, which amounted to accusations against Egypt. The source of these statements was a former Ethiopian ambassador to Cairo, who was a supporter of repairing the rift and was careful not to make statements that might provoke Cairo in any way while he was stationed there. Egypt did well by not responding to these hostile statements — it refused to be distracted from the main issue, which is the GERD.

One positive view on the future of the negotiations comes from the EU, which is optimistic a solution that satisfies all parties will be reached. It issued a statement welcoming the negotiations and expecting the talks to reach an acceptable basis for filling and operation. It added that the talks provide an important opportunity for the countries to move forward and agree on clear rules. Meanwhile, South Africa is working hard to reach a solution, as a deal would strengthen the AU in the long term.

Between the various positive and negative views on the issue of the GERD, there remain disputed points between the parties, which make us wonder who can solve them, given that the US, AU, EU and the UN Security Council — in their capacity as sponsoring the negotiations at several times — have all previously failed. So who can solve them? I think that the answer in this regard is one that does not change: Only the three countries that are parties to this crisis can solve it.


Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide. Twitter: @ALMenawy


With Sudan Signing Abraham Accords, Israel Tightens Grip In Africa, Red Sea Basin

By Rina Bassist

Jan 6, 2021

Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed on to the Abraham Accords today in Khartoum, officially agreeing to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel. The signature took place in the presence of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is currently visiting the country.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi tweeted after the news, “Sudan’s signing of the Abraham Accords is an important step in advancing regional normalization agreements in the Middle East. I want to thank the US administration for its constant efforts to promote peace and stability throughout the Middle East. I hope that this agreement will soon bring progress in the dialogue and normalization between Israel and Sudan and promote the development of relations between our two countries.’’

The signing in Khartoum ended weeks of speculations in Israel over the commitment of Sudan to the move, first announced Oct. 23 by President Donald Trump. After the festive announcement in October, it became clear to Jerusalem that Khartoum was conditioning normalization on the United States erasing it off the blacklist of countries supporting terror. This was not an easy task for the administration in Washington, but on Dec. 14, Khartoum got what it wanted. Still, even then, Khartoum took its time. Parts of the Sudanese leadership were apparently uncomfortable with the idea.

That being said, Israel’s Foreign Ministry sees ties with Sudan as extremely important strategically. The African-Muslim country is located in the Horn of Africa, on the shores of the Red Sea. More so, in past years, Sudan enabled Iran and its proxies to transfer arms though its land. And while Iranian-Sudanese ties have known more downs than ups in recent years, Israel considers Sudan a strategic, key country in the region.

With Sudan on board and excluding Djibouti and Somalia, Israel now maintains diplomatic relations with most of the Red Sea basin countries on the African side. Going from north to south, Israel has cold yet solid peace with Egypt; it has fresh, new diplomatic ties with Sudan; it has full though somewhat complicated diplomatic relations with Eritrea; it has especially warm ties with Kenya; and it maintains regular diplomatic ties with Tanzania and Mozambique. Ethiopia does not have an opening to the sea, but one could also include it in the Red Sea basin region. Jerusalem has privileged relations with Addis Ababa on many levels and for many years already, including security cooperation.

Considering this long list of friends, Israel would now like to establish diplomatic relations also with Muslim Djibouti. Over the past few years, this tiny African country located on the Bab al-Mandeb straits has become a major sea military hub for world powers. France has maintained a military base in Djibouti for decades. In 2002, the United States leased Camp Lemonnier, situated outside of Djibouti city, and established there a naval base, which is the only permanent American military base in Africa. In 2016, China began constructing its own naval base in Djibouti — its first and only Chinese military installation overseas. Italy, Japan, Russia, India and Singapore also have a military presence there. Having its own opening to the Red Sea, Israel is particularly interested in joining this club.

On Nov. 25, Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh addressed this issue in an interview with Africa Report, stating that Djibouti will not establish official ties with Israel without progress toward peace with the Palestinians. “We take issue with the Israeli government because they’re denying Palestinians their inalienable rights. All we ask that the government do is make one gesture of peace, and we will make 10 in return,” said Guelleh.

Still, the interesting part of the interview came later on when Guelleh said that his country does not have an issue with Jews or with Israelis. He also said that Israelis have been coming for years to his country to do business, and citizens of Djibouti have been permitted to travel to Israel for the past 25 years.

Indeed, reports over the years claimed that both countries have secret understandings on Israeli boats anchoring in the Djibouti port when necessary and for Israeli aircraft to pass through Djibouti air space if needed. Other reports claimed that following the Abraham Accords for normalization between Israel and the Emirates and Bahrain, Israel also held some contacts with Djibouti. No official sources confirmed these later reports.

Last on this list of Red Sea basin countries in which Israel would like a foothold is Muslim Somalia. The government in Mogadishu is clearly not interested in establishing ties with Israel, but leaders in self-proclaimed Somaliland, which is part of Somalia, might have a different opinion. Already in 2010, then-spokesperson of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor was quoted by Haaretz Daily saying his government was ready to recognize Somaliland.

The recent Abraham Accords might push further in that direction, as the Emirates are Somaliland’s biggest development and strategic partner. On the other hand, the Emirates chose to invest in Somaliland after rupturing ties with Djibouti. Saudi Arabia also has its share of interests across the African continent. With its new friends in the Gulf, Israel might now have to recalculate its next steps in Africa.


Is Israel Discriminating against Palestinians with Vaccine?

By Seth Frantzman

January 4, 2021

An Arab Israeli woman leaves after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at Clalit Health Services, in the northern Arab Israeli city of Umm al Fahm , on January 4, 2021. (Getty Images)

In recent weeks, I've been to Israel's mass vaccination centres in Jerusalem. I've interviewed Israelis, Palestinian Arabs, citizens and foreign nationals about their experiences of getting immunised. My conclusion is clear. Israel is not 'excluding' Palestinians from the vaccination programme, or discriminating between its own Jewish and Arab citizens – whatever the Observer may say.

On January 3, the paper asserted that Palestinians were 'excluded from the Israeli Covid vaccine', juxtaposing them with 'settlers', which it claimed received vaccinations.

The article, and further assertions that Israel was denying vaccinations to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip or West Bank, was misleading. In fact, by the definition used by the Observer's sister paper the Guardian, Israel is actually providing vaccinations to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

To understand how Israel is conducting its mass vaccination campaign, and why there has been so much misreporting, it's important to understand how Israel's health system works and how the country has approached the Covid crisis.

Since February, Israel has viewed the Covid outbreak as a national security issue, stockpiling personal protective equipment and using its security services, including Mossad, to acquire masks, ventilators and other necessities. Israel also sought out about eight million doses from Pfizer in a November deal, and ordered more than six million Moderna vaccine doses. Since receiving the first deliveries of the new drugs, Israel has conducted an unprecedented campaign of immunisation, providing the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to a million people in two weeks. This put the country in the spotlight as a world leader in vaccinating its citizens.

Israel provides the jabs through its state-mandated, semi-private health providers like Clalit, Maccabi and Meuhedet. Its campaign began by targeting people over 60-years-old. Despite some initial confusion, health professionals also treated younger people who showed up at vaccination centres. This was because once Pfizer vaccines are removed from cold storage they need to be used, and Israel doesn't want to waste them.

What about the Palestinians? First of all, Israel is providing vaccines to everyone in its health network, including Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who have Israeli health care. Second, there are cases of non-citizens in Israel getting vaccinated by showing up at one of the mass vaccination points. This is because the mission of health professionals is to vaccinate anyone who shows up. The virus doesn't distinguish between populations, and neither does medical care. The Guardian refers to Arab residents of east Jerusalem as Palestinians: therefore, by its own definition Israel has not excluded Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority, a semi-autonomous government that is recognised as the state of Palestine by 139 countries administers health care to millions of its own citizens. The Guardian's article on Israel 'excluding' Palestinians notes that the 'cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which maintains limited self-rule in the territories, is rushing to get vaccines. One official suggested, perhaps optimistically, that shots could arrive within the next two weeks... Despite the delay, the authority has not officially asked for help from Israel.'

In other words, the Guardian that asserts Palestinians were excluded goes on to admit that they were not excluded. Put it this way. The Palestinian Authority has not asked Israel to vaccinate its public. Hamas, the terror group that has run the Gaza Strip since 2006 after throwing the Palestinian Authority out, has not asked Israel for vaccinations. Ali Abed Rabbo, director-general of the Palestinian health ministry, did not tell the Guardian he wants Israel to procure vaccinations. There is a glaring inconsistency here.

Around two million Israelis will be vaccinated by the end of January, according to estimates. Israel may need to pause some of the initial dose vaccinations in order to give the first million patients their second dose. This is a complex learning process. Israel is ahead of most countries in terms of per capita provision of vaccines, but with some fifteen percent vaccinated by January 4, it is still a long road to get the adult population protected.

Overall in the region, Israel is not only a leader in vaccinations, but also in vaccinating Palestinians who are residents of Jerusalem. Israel has given the jab to more Palestinians than neighbouring countries where Palestinians reside. There are no reported plans to vaccinate local citizens or Palestinians in places like Lebanon for months.

Israel has done all it can to get people of all religions and ethnicities vaccinated.

In truth, Israel has done all it can to get people of all religions and ethnicities vaccinated. Palestinians who I interviewed said that locals were suspicious of the vaccine. In late December, Israeli health providers emphasised that they were seeking to convince Palestinians in East Jerusalem to attend vaccination stations. Ian Miskin, head of Coronavirus care and vaccination for Clalit in Jerusalem, said he was concerned about a 'subdued response', saying that it was a 'real priority' to get Palestinians from East Jerusalem vaccinated at a specialised clinic, like the one in the Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Overall, it appears that Palestinian-governed areas of the West Bank will receive vaccines around the same time as neighbouring Jordan, where many millions of Palestinians also live. Palestinians I spoke to told me that the authorities in Ramallah had drawn up lists of priority populations to vaccinate. This will include the elderly, security forces and journalists. In other words, the Palestinian Authority is working on it, and will likely provide vaccines at the same pace as neighbouring Arab states.

The fundamental point is that Israel is not responsible for the health care of the residents of the Palestinian Authority. Could Israel be doing more for citizens of neighbouring territories? That is an open question. Most countries in the world are unable to provide vaccinations to their own citizens. The nature of Israel's dispute with the Palestinians creates complex questions about this issue, but it is not due to discrimination that Israel isn't vaccinating residents of the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

The 139 countries that recognise the state of Palestine cannot also demand that Israel vaccinates citizens of a foreign state. Should Austria be blamed for not vaccinating the population of Slovakia?


Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.


Has The GCC Crisis Been Resolved?

By Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

6 Jan 2021

Exactly 43 months to the day since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt severed political and economic ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, the Al-Ula declaration signed at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Saudi Arabia brought the blockade of Qatar to a formal end.

The “solidarity and stability” agreement, the text of which has not been made public, is a significant advance in the efforts to overcome the deepest rift in the 40-year history of the GCC, ahead of Joe Biden taking over the presidency of the United States from Donald Trump on January 20.

However, while a crisis that began with Trump coming into office is ending just before he leaves the White House, the longer-term impacts of the regional rift are likely to take considerable time to heal and cannot be merely signed away with the stroke of a pen.

It is hard to disentangle the blockade of Qatar from the trajectory of Trump’s highly unconventional and transactional approach to foreign policy. Differences on regional issues between Qatar and some of its neighbours, especially the UAE, long predated the 2017 blockade and were manifested in the nine-month withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini ambassadors from Doha in 2014.

That earlier rift was resolved by patient Kuwaiti mediation that resulted in the signing of the Riyadh Agreement in November 2014. Over the next two and half years, Qatar sent forces to join the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, hosted King Salman on a state visit to Doha in December 2016 and ratified GCC-wide security cooperation agreements.

After all this, the outbreak of the 2017 blockade, two weeks after Trump visited Riyadh on his first foreign trip as US president, took many observers of regional politics completely by surprise. This includes the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who later commented that “suddenly, this dispute came into existence” after “we met in Riyadh, in the presence of President Trump, and there was no one to say that there was a dispute between us”.

The feeling that something had transpired in Riyadh that contributed to the blockade was subsequently given credence by Trump himself, as he tweeted: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”

Although Sheikh Sabah of Kuwait was instrumental in preventing the situation from escalating further, going so far as to declare in September 2017 that “what is important is that we have stopped any military action”, he died in September 2020 with the crisis still unresolved.

In recent months, it was Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who pushed most strongly for a deal that would assist the administration in its attempts to further isolate Iran through a campaign of “maximum pressure”. Kushner and his aides visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar in early December to flesh out the outlines of a deal and are said to have smoothed over issues that reportedly arose at the last minute.

Kushner’s role and his presence at the signing ceremony in the Saudi heritage site of Al-Ula upended assertions by the blockading quartet that the crisis would be “resolved in Riyadh” rather than by the US.

The communique of the GCC summit, which was named in honour of the two great balancers of regional politics – Sheikh Sabah and Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, who also passed away last year – contained little detail about specific commitments made by the parties to end the blockade or move forward. Therefore, there is a risk that the Al-Ula declaration may suffer the same fate as the 2014 Riyadh Agreement, which lacked safeguards to monitor and verify compliance by all signatories, and itself became an issue of contestation and mutual recrimination after the 2017 crisis began.

There is an opportunity for the GCC to ensure that its own settlement dispute mechanism is utilised to manage any future disputes that may arise among member states, and that regional power plays, like that of 2017, cannot be repeated.

There have been suggestions that the UAE was more resistant to an agreement than Saudi Arabia and it was noticeable that neither King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, nor President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt chose to attend the summit or sign in person the agreement.

At the very least, there was an acknowledgement by the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, that the maximalist 13 demands made by the blockading quartet of Qatar in June 2017 had given way to “general outlines that govern relations” between the GCC states. Gargash added that “we [the UAE] are very satisfied with this outcome”.

But it remains to be seen whether the lifting of the blockade fully equates to an ending of the rift in the Gulf or corresponds more to a bilateral reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It is unclear how much the UAE, especially Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain will buy into the new era in regional relations. Ties of trust and people-to-people connections between these states and Qatar may well take more time to recover.

What has made this crisis different from previous disagreements is that it went far beyond the confines of a political dispute among elites to hit directly on families and individuals who endured years of separation and often vituperative finger-pointing and name-calling on social media. The social legacy of the Qatar blockade is likely to be the hardest issue to resolve, even after the disruptive effects of the pandemic dissipate and people are able to travel throughout the Gulf again. At the political level, an agreement made with an eye on Washington and on positioning vis-à-vis the upcoming Biden administration may at most only paper over the deeper cracks that the Gulf crisis has exposed.


Kristian Coates Ulrichsen is Fellow for the Middle East at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.


Pardons And Iraq: A Familiar Story

By Andrew Mitrovica

6 Jan 2021

The posh enablers of America’s empire have always required that the grunts do the maiming and murdering in pursuit of their disastrous geopolitical adventures.

The corollary to this, of course, is the same posh enablers rush for the exits when, occasionally, the grunts end up in the dock for all the maiming and murdering done to enforce America’s dominion over nations the posh enablers have insisted – with obdurate certainty – require emancipation.

For more prima facie evidence of this axiom, you need only digest the reaction among the posh enablers of the US destruction (sorry, emancipation) of Iraq to news of Donald Trump’s pardon of four mercenaries (aka grunts) convicted in connection with the murder of 17 Iraqis, including two children, in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007.

One mortified New York Times columnist wrote that the pardons, while predictable, were conspicuous not only because of their “depravity” and “grotesqueness”, but are also proof that “the last days of Trump’s reign have been an orgy of impunity”.

That a Times scribe invoked the notion of “impunity” in a lengthy column denouncing the pardons of four killers liable for the massacre, while failing to acknowledge the newspaper’s irrefutable role in championing a “pre-emptive war” that ultimately facilitated the “orgy of violence” in Nisour Square and beyond is as predictable as it is a grotesque example of moral expediency and amnesia.

But the appalling revisionism did not end there. The pardons, the outraged Times columnist added: “exemplify a core tenet of Trumpism: absolute license for some and absolute submission for others”.

This is exculpatory nonsense. What the writer describes is not Trumpism, but US exceptionalism – the defining and abiding doctrine of American foreign policy established long before Trump occupied the Oval Office.

Indeed, on the eve of the invasion in March 2003, William Safire, another Times columnist, declared the US had a “duty” to wage war unapologetically in Iraq.

“But we should by no means feel guilty about doing our duty. War cannot be waged apologetically. Rather than wring our hands, Americans and our allies are required to gird our loins – that is, to fight to win with the conviction that our cause is just. We have ample reason to believe that Saddam’s gangster government is an evil to be destroyed before it gains the power to destroy us,” Safire, who died in 2009, wrote.

Safire averred that the US has the licence to impose its “convictions” on other peoples at will and maim and kill them without “guilt”.

This is the mirror reasoning that the Times is now excoriating Trump for employing as the rationale to pardon four killers. The hypocrisy is near nauseating.

Beyond Safire and the Times, the list of the Iraq war’s keyboard cavalry is deep and notorious. The marquee names include the late Christopher Hitchens, David Frum, Max Boot, Thomas Friedman, Bill Kristol and New Yorker editor, David Remnick.

For his part, Remnick offered up the, by then, standard jingoistic gruel in a February 2003 column, arguing that “a return to a hollow pursuit of containment will be the most dangerous option of all”.

Still, at the time, Remnick shared the following admonition that resonates today. “History,” he wrote, “will not easily excuse us if, by deciding not to decide, we defer a reckoning with an aggressive totalitarian leader who intends not only to develop weapons of mass destruction but also to use them.”

So, how has history judged Remnick and his posh company who got the “reckoning” in Iraq they yearned for?

First, they were wrong on every score. There were no weapons of mass destruction – nuclear or otherwise. Despite cocky assurances that the invasion would be quick and tractable, the war, murders and mayhem continue, as does the incessant suffering of Iraqis.

And while a few of the Iraq war’s keyboard cavalry have issued belated and qualified mea culpas, they have also been largely pardoned for promoting a disastrous invasion that led, in part, to the dispatch of four guns-for-hire who slaughtered innocents in Nisour Square.

The lucrative careers of Frum, Boot, Kristol and Friedman have, if anything, flourished despite their complicity in providing – again and again – the imprimatur of authority to lies that helped launch a war that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians to date.

Their ubiquitous presence on Western cable news networks as members of the Trump “resistance” is grating testimony to the fact their giddy war-mongering days quickly and comfortably receded in the rear-view mirror.

My goodness, even the queen of WMD disinformation, former Times’ reporter, Judith Miller, now appears on Fox News as a commentator on “national security issues and American foreign policy” after a brief stint in the sin bin.

The rogue’s line-up of rich politicians and bureaucrats – Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz – who conspired to destroy Iraq to liberate it have, in effect, been pardoned too.

So has George W Bush – who has been rehabilitated beyond recognition. The image of Bush, the dauphin warrior, standing on an aircraft carrier declaring “mission accomplished” has faded, replaced by the more agreeable picture of a happy, doddering recluse who prefers these days to tend to brush on his Texas ranch.

Justice demanded that the four grunts responsible for the murder of 17 Iraqis be held to account.

Justice demands that the powerful men and women responsible for the premeditated horror Iraqis have endured for more than 17 years be held to account as well.



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