Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Street violence in the ancient port of Acre over the past few days has traumatised a town that has promoted itself as a multicultural tourist hotspot, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rare model of integration between Israel’s Jewish majority and the Arabs who make up a fifth of the population.
It has provoked an outpouring of reflection on the place of Arabs within Israel, on the nature of Israel as a Jewish state and on its broader relations with the Arab world, not least with the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
The word “pogrom” has been bandied by both sides after rioting broke out at the start of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur.
A term for attacks on Jews in 19th and early 20th Russia – the kind of attacks that drove the Zionist push for a Jewish state in Palestine – it has been heard rather frequently here of late.
One of the problems with countries like Syria – secretive and authoritarian – is that whenever a bomb goes off or someone is assassinated, the list of possible suspects is extensive.
One can draw up a long list of enemies who could have plotted and carried out Saturday’s rare car bomb attack on a major road near a Syrian state security complex and an intersection leading to a famous Shi’ite Muslim shrine. The blast, which killed 17 people including a brigadier general and his son, poses another test to Syria’s reputation for keeping a tight grip on dissent and maintaining stability in a troubled area.
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, put some deep cracks in the macho Mediterranean country’s glass ceiling with her victory — albeit a narrow one — over former general Shaul Mofaz in Wednesday’s Kadima party leadership election. But no sooner had she moved a step closer to becoming Israel’s first woman prime minister since the legendary Golda Meir in the 1970s, than two former members of the vaunted Sayeret Matkal commando unit got together for a strategy session.
Ehud Barak, whose Labour Party is a key member of the Kadima-led coalition government, and Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the right-wing opposition Likud, met on Saturday to discuss their next moves in Israel’s political turmoil.
Hundreds of supporters and reporters waited for hours overnight at a banner-festooned hangar-like building in
Tel Aviv for a victory speech that never materialised from the ruling Kadima party’s newly elected leader, Tzipi Livni.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was all smiles a day after police recommended that he face criminal charges in a corruption scandal.
Declining to answer reporters’s questions, an ebullient Olmert grinned broadly and waxed patriotic as he greeted a jumbo jet-load of new immigrants from the United States.
Hezbollah literally rolled out the red carpet to welcome home five prisoners released by Israel in a U.N.-mediated exchange deal. Securing the release of the last five Lebanese held by Israel was a major triumph for the group, which in turn handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in a 2006 raid into Israel.
Having achieved a long-held goal, Hezbollah is holding up the exchange as further evidence that its uncompromising, armed approach to dealing with Israel brings results, directly challenging the policies of Arab leaders who have engaged in negotiations or signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. The New York Times called the prisoners’ homecoming a triumph.
In the past President George W. Bush accused Tehran of belonging to an “axis of evil”, compared negotiations with its president to appeasing Adolf Hitler, and warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would lead to World War Three.
His administration refused to join international talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, which it suspects could be used to produce a nuclear bomb, unless Tehran halted enriching uranium. It pointedly declined to rule out military action if a diplomatic solution was not found.
The European-Mediterranean summit in Paris might have produced grand projects ranging from cleaning up the Mediterranean sea to using North Africa’s sunshine to generate power. But that is is not what it will be remembered for.
It will be remembered for the glorious welcome it bestowed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who until yesterday was persona non-grata in the West, an autocrat leading a pariah regime, which many believe orchestrated the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
Four years ago this week, on July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, known as the World Court, ruled in an advisory opinion that the wall and fence barrier which Israel was building in the West Bank was illegal under international law and that Palestinians affected by it should be compensated. Israel responded by dismissing the decision as politically motivated and defended the barrier, which it calls the “security fence”, as an effective response to “Palestinian terrorism”. Israel says the barrier, whose projected route of fences and walls snakes through the West Bank for over 700 km, has saved Israeli lives by preventing a continuation of attacks, notably suicide bombings.
The United Nations General Assembly voted later in July 2004 to demand that Israel comply with the decision of the World Court. Following the court ruling, the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators – the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia – also reaffirmed an earlier statement which said “We note the Government of Israel’s pledge that the barrier is a security rather than political barrier and should be temporary rather than permanent. We continue to note with great concern the actual and proposed route of the barrier, particularly as it results in confiscation of Palestinian land, cuts off the movement of people and groups, and undermines Palestinians’ trust in the roadmap (peace) process by appearing to prejudge the final borders of the future Palestinian state.”
There is a running joke among Western journalists, diplomats and other foreigners based in Iran who have the task of trying to understand what is going on behind the scenes: the longer you stay here, the more opaque Iranian policy making becomes.
It may be said lightheartedly, but it contains more than a grain of truth. The longer you spend trying to peel back the layers of the Iranian establishment to understand what the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is thinking, the more layers you discover.