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The Briefing

The Briefing: Latest Middle East news, opinions and research from American Friends of Tel Aviv University

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Volume VI, Number 18:
August 5, 2019

Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy

"The Kushner Plan: Economics or Politics, Which Comes First?" by Paul Rivlin
In June, the White House issued the long-awaited "Peace to Prosperity: A New Vision for the Palestinian People and the Broader Middle East." The plan consists of three initiatives to support the Palestinian economy, people and government and aims to raise more than $50 billion in new investment over 10 years. It will begin with an emphasis on economic development by strengthening property and contract rights, the rule of law, anti-corruption measures, capital markets, a pro-growth tax structure and a low-tariff scheme with reduced trade barriers. These measures will be coupled with investments in the infrastructure to improve the business environment and stimulate private-sector growth. The plan aims to provide reliable access to electricity, clean water and digital services. These will become available for homes, hospitals, schools and businesses. Businesses will have access to capital, and the markets of the West Bank and Gaza will be connected with key trading partners, including Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. The resulting economic growth has the potential to end the current high unemployment rates and transform the West Bank and Gaza economies.
Source: Iqtisadi: Middle East Economy/The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University — July 29, 2019

Middle East News Brief

The Middle East News Brief is a selection of editorial commentary and analysis from the Middle East and Africa. The inclusion of any item does not mean that the MDC endorses the opinions or arguments expressed therein.

Algeria — Majed Nehme: Algeria-France: When the ball stops spinning, bigotry rears its head
The recent victory of the Algerian football team in the Africa Cup of Nations led to both an outburst of joy and a political-media storm in France. The presence of Algerian flags in Paris was perceived as a rejection of French identity and led to racist comments. French racism is symptomatic of many recent developments, including the rise of far-right parties and Islamic terrorist attacks that cause many to confuse Islam with migration and terrorism. Racism is also an easy escape from addressing other issues, such as the failure of the French model of integration. It also draws attention to the lack of analysis of the fracture between France and its Algerian population. The success of the celebrations in Canada and Belgium following the Algerian victory, in contrast to the French reaction, highlights once again the French deleterious climate, the economic crisis, and the perilous situation in the suburbs of the state. Furthermore, it demonstrates the Algerian community's feeling of rejection by France — a sentiment that also affects other parts of the society, as the Yellow Vest movement showed.
Source: The Arab Weekly (Paris) — July 27, 2019

Egypt — Egypt Today Staff: Youth conferences, a dream turned national foundation
The National Youth Conference is an initiative that started in 2016; the first meeting brought together 3,000 youths in Sharm El Sheikh. The purpose of this campaign is to host debates between young future leaders and state officials with the aim of empowering youths in the world of government affairs and policy making. These conferences demonstrate that the Egyptian state does not repress opposing views and that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is eager to listen to external ideas, opinions, and rejections of the status quo. Many of the recommendations provided by the conference participants have already been implemented, including the establishment of a national committee comprising young people to mandate, under the coordination of state authorities, thorough reviews of the status of young citizens who have been detained but not yet tried.
Source: Egypt Today (Cairo) — July 28, 2019

Libya — Ziad Akl: Turkey's role in the Libya conflict
Turkey has been one of the main actors empowering the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) by providing arms. One purpose of the current Turkish foreign policy, characterized by Turkish presence and intervention in Libya, is to gain more influence in the southern Mediterranean region. Such influence could be used later as a bargaining tool in Turkey's relations with the West. It is unlikely that Turkish involvement will turn into military intervention, but Egypt perceives the Turkish presence as a challenge. Because Libya has always been a matter of Egyptian national security, Egypt will not accept Turkish intervention in Libya under any circumstances. Egypt's foreign policy is based on the assumption that a political solution will come only from exclusively Libyan participants, through a process of political settlement. The ongoing situation in Libya renders the state incapable of producing a winning party, since the Libyan National Army (LNA) and forces loyal to the GNA are backed by regional and international alliances that are all trying to achieve different goals.
Source: Ahram Online (Egypt) — July 20, 2019

Tunisia — Abdeljalil Maali: Caid Essebsi will exert influence even in his absence
The death of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi on July 25 will have multifaceted effects on Tunisian politics, leading to as much frenzy as his return after the revolution as head of the interim government. In returning, Essebsi came armed with former President Habib Bourguiba's legacy, but he was also stigmatized by self-declared guardians of the revolution who saw him as a representative of the old regime. Essebsi was a man of compromise and consensus. While some cases of acceptance and agreement were met with rejection, they still enabled the country to avoid slipping into unpredictable fates and prevented the Ennahda Movement from gaining full control of Tunisia and its institutions. With Essebsi gone and general and presidential elections scheduled for later this year — and in light of the weakness of most political parties — Ennahda continues to move toward achieving hegemony over the political scene, and no one seems to be able to stop it.
Source: The Arab Weekly (Tunis) — July 27, 2019

Palestine — Adnan Abu Amer: How to read Hamas' visit to Iran
In July, Saleh al-Arouri, a deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, led a Hamas delegation to meet with Iranian leadership in Tehran. These meetings are a sign of a revival of relations between Hamas and Iran after diplomacy had deteriorated over disagreements about the Syrian revolution. The leaders of Hamas and Iran found common ground regarding the Palestinian cause and Iran's struggle against the United States and Israel. The meetings addressed Iran's financial and military support for Hamas at a time when Hamas is in a financial crisis and facing tensions in its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Hamas' political bureau head, Ismail Haniyeh, did not attend the meetings because Egypt delayed his ability to leave Gaza, reflecting Egypt's reluctance to allow Hamas to cultivate its relations with Iran. Abdullah Abdullah, a member of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, criticized Hamas' visit to Iran, noting that getting involved in regional tensions will hurt Palestinians. But Arouri emphasized that the relationship between Hamas and Iran is not meant to harm any Arab parties.
Source: al-Monitor (Gaza) — July 26, 2019

Syria — National Editorial: The people of Idlib have been truly failed
The northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, which is controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham and other radical organizations, remains the country's sole remaining rebel stronghold. Idlib has been plagued by incessant violence, resulting in the deaths of more than 740 civilians and the displacement of 400,000 others since April. The allied Syrian and Russian regimes have intensified their offensive on Idlib, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to escalate attacks against the Syrian Kurds as well. The continued civil war has wreaked havoc upon the people of Idlib, who are in desperate need of international assistance. Regrettably, the leading global powers have failed to provide the necessary humanitarian aid. Indeed, the international community seems totally unfazed by the persistence of airstrikes that hit schools, hospitals, and grocery stores, endangering the lives of Syrian civilians.
Source: The National (Abu Dhabi) — July 27, 2019

Saudi Arabia — Eman Alhussein and Mohammed Al-Sudairi: Parallels between feminist movements in Saudi Arabia and China
Today Chinese-Saudi ties are closer than ever. The two countries' tight alignment mostly derives from overlapping strategic, technological, and economic interests, but their closeness also reflects similar structural and sociopolitical trends — specifically in terms of the role and treatment of women in both states. Both countries have consistently had deeply patriarchal systems, and the role of women has been fairly similar in both. However, in recent years, Saudi Arabia and China have made strides towards women's inclusion in governmental and civil society. This new trend has influenced feminist movements in both countries. In 2015, these mobilizations became especially relevant. In China, the feminist movement gained speed with International Women's Day and with the #metoo movement. In Saudi Arabia, after the Human Rights Watch published "Boxed In," a report about the constraints imposed on women by the Saudi guardianship system, the "I Am My Own Guardian" campaign gained popularity, attracting Saudi women of all ages. Despite these advances, China and Saudi Arabia have begun to clamp down on women's rights activists and restrict the growth of feminist movements. In both cases, the state was concerned by the momentum of feminist mobilization. China is currently attempting to address demographic problems by promoting family-oriented values, which feminism directly threatens; in Saudi Arabia, feminist mobilizations, which seek to decrease male dominance in the home, challenge the state's attempt to minimize the influence of religious scholars. As a result, Saudi Arabia has compared feminists to radical networks like ISIS, while China has framed feminists as hostile Westerners seeking to divide the country and break away from China's traditions. In addition, both states have detained many feminists and limited feminist digital activity.
Source: The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (Washington, DC) — July 30, 2019

Turkey — Amberin Zaman: Turkish muscle flexing in Mediterranean rekindles Cyprus peace efforts
Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci hope to rekindle UN-brokered peace talks to reunite the divided island after fear of a confrontation between Turkey and Cyprus. Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides insists that Turkey must cease drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean in order to create the necessary climate for negotiations to take place in August. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hopes to host a trilateral meeting with the Cypriot leaders in New York in September. The two parties must negotiate rights over drilling in the basin's gas-rich resources. In addition to the conflict of interests regarding natural resources, Cyprus has also been marked by tension between the secular Greek Cypriots and the increasing Islamization of Turkish Cypriots. Turkey's abuse of its power is having a counterproductive effect on its standing in the international community.
Source: al-Monitor (Washington, DC) — July 26, 2019

Turkey — Onur Mete: Turkish intelligence chief could be kingmaker in future power struggle
Amid a period of potential political change in Turkey, Hakan Fidan, the chief of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), promises to exert significant influence in his new role. New Turkish leaders like Ekrem İmamoğlu, Ali Babacan, and Ahmet Davutoğlu are taking the stage as an unraveling economic crisis and inner governmental splits haunt Turkey. Fidan is believed to have gained Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's favor through his outstanding performance as head of TIKA, which he ran as an intelligence institution and as a branch of Turkish "soft power." After the passing of the Gülen movement and with Erdoğan's protection, MIT has greatly concentrated its power and is now at the center of the state under the new executive presidential system. However, Erdoğan has strongly opposed Fidan's move from MIT to a position in politics; this opposition hastened the split between Erdoğan and Davutoğlu. Fidan is also known for his closeness to Gül, who intends to join Ali Babacan's new party. Fidan's potential prominence will depend on which side he stands with.
Source: Ahval News (London) — July 19, 2019

Kurdistan Region — Shivan Ibrahim: Syrians in Kurdish areas feel military service is unfair
On June 23, the Self-Defense Duty Law was passed in northern Syria. The general council of self-administration of Raqqa also gave the committees for self-defense the authority to determine the age of recruits within their areas of control. Protests broke out one day after the decision was issued and are still going on. Both Kurds and Arabs believe they are being discriminated against because they are being forced to join the ranks of the Self-Defense Forces, which fight alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, while the youth from other regions are not. Activists launched an online campaign protesting the non-unification of conscription age, using the hashtag #YesToUnifyingConscriptionAge. The protests highlight how Article 14 of the Self-Defense Duty Law is a violation of the Charter of the Social Contract established by the self-administration, which calls for equal rights and duties for all citizens. The head of the Defense Committee in al-Jazira, Zidane Al-Assi, said that a 12-month military service in all areas is obligatory but each area has its own particularity. He denied that the law is unfair.
Source: al-Monitor (Washington, DC) — July 28, 2019




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