Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sharif don't like it...

The Arab world keeps on rocking. Today there's a demonstration planned in Khartoum, and on Saturday in Damascus.

I have mixed feelings about an Egyptian revolution, but Sudan and Syria are among the world's worst regimes, and I'd be very happy to see them go. The Sudanese government announced its intent to implement Sharia laws in the state, so in their case we don't even have to be afraid that the Islamists will take over - they are already there anyway.

But here lies the big question: can what has happened in Tunisia and is happening in Egypt can also happen in countries like Sudan and Syria?

The regimes of Egypt and Tunisia were connected to the West, and that restrained their ability to crush the demonstrations. The regimes of Sudan and Syria, on the other hand, don't give a damn (maybe the Sudanese regime cares a little more, but not much). They will come down hard.

Can the power of the people, and the encouragement they got from the successful uprising in Tunisia, overcome even repressive regimes such as those?

As we've learned in the past couple of weeks, everything is possible. In the meantime, what is happening kinda makes me want to dance.

The Clash-Rock the Casbah
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Egyptian plages

No internet in Egypt today, and no SMSes. Dictators learn fast.

And yet, they have riots on an unprecedented scale. Mubarak's regime is wobbling.

After today, I can't see things going back to the way they were. Either Mubarak's regime falls, or it is forced to make large-scale reforms, or it really clamps down on the citizens, and rules with an iron fist. Either way, it won't last long.

What happens if Mubarak falls?

The main concern is that the Muslim Brotherhood will take over. But I don't think this will happen. There are other strong forces now in the Arab world, and they will make a stand. There will have to be some sort of power share.

Maybe there will be some sort of democracy, like in Lebanon.

If that happens, Egypt will become very hostile towards Israel. The Egyptian people hate our guts.

I fear for the peace. They can easily announce that anything the previous regime signed is null and void, and tear up the peace agreement with Israel.

But this is something we will have to deal with at some point anyway. If the new administration wants to be taken seriously by the international community, it will be hard for them to disregard previous agreements. It will be tough, and there will be a lot of hostility at first, but in the long run, it might produce the growth of a stronger relationship between our two nations.

If we ever want to live in peace, we in Israel must wish for the fall of Arab dictatorships, and a rise in the power of the Arab people. In the long run, this is the only thing that can bring peace. I was hoping it won't start with Egypt, but it isn't up to me. And a successful uprising in Egypt will surely inspire an uprising against worst dictatorships, like Libya and Syria.

The battle over the new face of the Middle East begins now.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Middle East is boiling

Panoramic view:

Tunisia: things are still volatile. How will the first successful popular uprising in modern Arab history turn out? Five years ago I would have been pessimistic, believing that it could only result in the rise of the Muslim fundamentalists. But now, I don't know. The Arabs have sure changed a lot in the past decade, and now they seem ripe for a more democratic rule.

Egypt: the masses are rioting in the streets, angry mainly with President Mubarack's intent to pass the role of Presidency to his son. They are emboldened by the Tunisian revolution, and so far they are unmoved by the threats of the authority's. Twitter has been blocked in Egypt, proving once again how important social networks have become in the fight for freedom.

It is good to see people standing up to a dictatorship, but also worrying. Egypt, at the moment, plays a much needed stabilizing role in the Middle East, and helping in the fight against fundamentalism. I would rather see the regime remaining in place for now. Let the democratic revolution happen in other Arab countries first.

Yemen: the people started rioting today. See how that goes.

Algiers: still rioting. Hard.

Lebanon: power shift. With reports that the international tribunal is about to implicate Hizballah for the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri, Hizballah threatened to spark a civil war if Lebanon doesn't turn its back on the tribunal. PM Saad Hariri, son of the slain PM, showed guts and refused, so Hizballah quit the government, and managed to gain a majority in the Parliament for its side. The result: Hariri was impeached, and Lebanon has a new PM, Mikathi, a man loyal to Syria.

So it appears that Hariri, and the pro-Western camp, have lost, while Hizballah, the assassins, have won. But I'm not sure. First, it is significant that this coup took place according to the rules of democracy, and even Hizballah felt obliged to play by them. Second, Hizballah is now in the majority, which will keep them busy in running the country, while the makeup of their coalition will prevent them from passing any fundamentalist laws - they will not be able to turn the country into Iran, as some people fear. Third - Hariri may have lost for now, but it is important that he didn't play the usual Lebanese game of compromising with criminals, and keeps demanding justice against the assassins.

It is not certain yet what Hariri and his camp will do now, and if they will accept the new PM and continue to play by the rules of democracy. But for now, Lebanese democracy holds. In the past, this situation would have already escalated into civil war. The fact that it didn't shows that maybe Lebanon has grown.

Palestinian Authority: is rocked by Al Jazeera's revelations that the heads of the PA were ready to give up on the right of return, and parts of East Jerusalem, in the talks with Israel. But surprisingly, so far, there are no riots against the leadership. Could it be that the Palestinian people actually accept it? Let's see what happens tomorrow, after Friday prayer.

Iran: out of the spotlight, the regime is executing all those who participated in last year's riots. About a hundred have been executed just in the past month. Go ahead, this will only precipitate your downfall. January 29 has been designated as a global day of protest.

Sudan: about to split up, as the South just voted on it. Official results are not known yet, but they say about 99% voted for cessation. We still don't know what this will cause.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia: terrorism continues to run rampant, killing thousands every month.

Israel: continues to be the quietest corner of the Middle East.

Tomorrow is Friday, Yaum al Juma'a, the day when Muslims meet in the mosques, and hear rousing sermons. This is usually when the boiling pot starts to overflow. Watch out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thank you, Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera has gone all Wikileaks on our ass, and is in the process of publishing thousands of documents revealing the talks between Israel and the PA. Finally, we get to hear what the Palestinians have been offering in the peace process.

According to the papers, the Palestinians offer to limit the right of return to a symbolic number (tens of thousands) of Palestinians who will be allowed back into Israel; they are prepared to let Israel keep most of the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem; and to swap land in the West Bank for Israeli lands. This is an offer that I can live with, and so can many other Israelis.

Of course, the Palestinian leadership (we're talking Fatah, yes? Not Hamas) vehemently denies what has been published. But anyone who has been following the peace process realizes that what was published is very close to the truth.

This is the thing that was missing. We in Israel know what our leaders have been offering. Not right away, but some time later. For instance, former PM Olmert has revealed that he offered the Palestinians more than 95% of the West Bank, control over part of East Jerusalem, and a token number (a few thousands) of Palestinians that will be allowed to return to Israel. Most Israelis are against this offer, and Olmert's party (like Barak's Labor before it) took a political hit as a result. But it has entered Israeli consciousness. Israelis now realize that some of our leaders think that we must give all that up for peace, and they are getting used to the idea. In time, they will learn to live with it.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, have not been exposed to what their leaders say in the negotiations. The Palestinian leaders keep telling their people that they will not give up the right of return for every Palestinian refugee (several millions), and not an inch of East Jerusalem. As a result, the Palestinians are not being prepared for peace, and we Israelis feel like the peace process is pointless, since there will be no way to implement it.

We see the reaction now. They are shocked, and accuse their leaders of betrayal. Imagine how they would have reacted if an actual agreement was reached.

But now, thanks to Al Jazeera, they will have to start thinking about it. In time, they will learn to live with it.