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Middle East Press (12 Jan 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Why Palestine Is Still Relevant: New Age Islam's Selection, 12 January 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

12 January 2017

Why Palestine Is Still Relevant

By Richard Falk

Iran And Turkey Should Find Common Ground

By Ali Vaez

Gulf Security In 2017: Critical Threats

By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

Tehran’s Besieged Fox Dies

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

How A Terror Tale Unfolded In Riyadh

By Mshari Al Thaydi

Israeli Occupation In The Dock As Much As Sergeant Azaria

By Yossi Mekelberg

Barack Obama’s Successes And Failures

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Why Palestine Is Still Relevant

By Richard Falk

January 11, 2017

The UN has been reawakened to its long lapsed responsibility to find a peaceful solution to the conflict

On December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council (UNSC), by a 14-0 vote, adopted Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlement expansion; notably the US refrained from voting. It was treated as big news in the West because the Obama presidency had finally, in its last weeks in office, refused to use its veto to protect Israel from UN censure. Especially in the US, the media focused on the meaning of this diplomatic move, wondering aloud whether it was motivated by President Barack Obama's lingering anger over Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to torpedo Obama's efforts to reach an agreement with Iran in 2014 on its nuclear programme, or meant to challenge the incoming Trump leadership to deal responsibly with the unresolved Israel-Palestine conflict and mount criticism of US president-elect Donald Trump's reckless pledge to move the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem and side openly with extremist Israeli leadership in the years ahead.

The likely lasting importance of the resolution is the evidence of a strong international consensus embodied in the 14-0 vote, with only the US abstention preventing unanimity. Bringing together China, Russia, France and the UK on an initiative tabled by Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela is sending Israel and the US the message that despite the adverse developments in the Middle East in recent years, the world has not forgotten the Palestinians or their struggle. It is also significant that the resolution calls upon the new UN secretary general to report back to the UNSC every three months on implementation progress and explicitly keeps the council seized of the issue. Such provisions reinforce the impression that the unresolved Israel-Palestine conflict will remain on the UN's policy agenda in the months ahead, which is itself extremely irritating to Israel.

It is widely agreed that 2334 is largely symbolic, which is a way of saying that nothing on the ground in occupied Palestine is expected to change, even with respect to Israeli settlement policy, from the passage of this resolution. Israel responded to the resolution even more defiantly than anticipated, partly because this challenge to its policies, although symbolic, was more threatening than a mere gesture of disapproval. This reaction seemed principally influenced by the US failure to follow its normal practice of shielding Israel by casting its veto. It also complements the growing civil society challenge posed by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign (BDS), which has been gaining traction in recent years, particularly in Europe and North America. In effect, resolution 2334 may be the beginning of a new stage of the legitimacy war that the Palestinian people and their supporters have been waging in recent years in opposition to Israeli policies and practices, not only in the West Bank and East Jerusalem but also in Gaza and on the world stage. If Trump follows through on his provocative pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, it is likely to intensify offsetting efforts to induce the UN to exert greater pressure on Israel to address Palestinian grievances in an accommodating manner.

A few days after the UN vote, the motivation for the US's change of tactics was clarified by secretary of state John Kerry. He mainly connected 2334 with the US effort to save the two-state solution from collapsing.

Wider Impact Of The Resolution

Kerry quoted approvingly Former Israeli president Shimon Peres' self-satisfied assertion that 78% of historic Palestine should be enough for Israel, which Peres was comparing to the excessive demands for even more land by the settler one-staters. Of course, 78% gives Israel much more than the 55% it was awarded in 1947 by UN General Assembly resolution 181. At the time, the entire Arab world and Palestinian representatives rejected this UN proposal as unacceptable despite being given 45% or more than double the Palestinian territory after Israeli withdrawal from land occupied since the 1967 war. Beyond this, Kerry's inclusion of land swaps as integral to his version of the two-state solution would result in further encroachments on territory left to the Palestinians, a result obscured to some extent by giving Palestine uninhabitable desert acreage as a dubious equivalent for the prime agricultural land on which the unlawful Israeli settlements are built. At best, territorial equality would be achieved quantitatively, but certainly not qualitatively, which is what counts.

Overall, the impact of resolution 2334 is likely to be greater than it would have been if Israel had not reacted so petulantly. Even if Trump reverses the US's critical approach to further Israeli settlement expansion, the UN has been reawakened to its long lapsed responsibility to find a peaceful solution for the conflict and end the Palestinian ordeal that has gone on for an entire century since Lord Alfred Balfour gave a British colonial green light to the Zionist project to establish a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine. As well, civil society activists that have thrown their support to the BDS campaign and governments critical of Israel's behaviour are likely to feel encouraged by this expression of virtual unity within the most important organ of the UN system.

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Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University

Source: khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/why-palestine-is-still-relevant

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Iran And Turkey Should Find Common Ground

By Ali Vaez

January 11, 2017

They need to establish a channel for continuous high-level negotiations over Iraq and Syria

Today's competition between Turkey and Iran is the latest iteration of an old power game: a struggle their progenitors, the Byzantine and Persian empires, started over the control of Mesopotamia - today's Iraq and Syria. While the rivalry outlived their transformation from empires to nation-states, they have managed to keep the peace between themselves for nearly 200 years.

Yet Turkey and Iran are now on a collision course, mostly because of their involvement as the region's major Sunni and Shiite powers in the deepening sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Their inability to accommodate each other has the potential to undermine or even undo the strong ties they have developed over the past two decades, as their economies became increasingly intertwined.

How the two countries choose to deploy their power and whether they can overcome their differences are vitally important to determining the future of the Middle East. Left unchecked, the present dynamics point toward greater bloodshed, growing instability and greater risks of direct - even if inadvertent - military confrontation.

Turkey's military involvement in Syria and Iraq is partly a response to the perception that Iran is increasingly encroaching on its historic sphere of influence, especially in and around the Aleppo and Mosul battlefields close to its southern border. It is also an effort to prevent the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or P.Y.D., which is affiliated with Turkey's archnemesis the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or P.K.K., to gain more territory.

Friction between the two countries and their proxies is rising alarmingly at a time that mutual trust has reached a nadir.

Tehran interprets Turkey's Syria policy as primarily a product of a neo-Ottoman ambition to regain clout and empower pro-Turkey Sunnis in territories ruled by its progenitor. "What changed in Syria" after the civil war began "was neither the government's nature nor Iran's ties with it, but Turkish ambitions," an Iranian national security official told me. Moreover, Iran blames Turkey for not stemming the flow of Syria-bound jihadists through Turkish territory and for giving them logistical and financial support.

In the same vein, officials in Ankara contend that Iran seeks to resuscitate the Shia version of the ancient Persian Empire. In March 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey accused Iran of fighting the Daesh in Iraq only to replace it. Turkey also says that Iran's mobilisation of Shia militias from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan to protect the rule of a minority sect, the Alawites, over a majority-Sunni population in Syria has worsened sectarian tensions, giving Sunni extremists a potent recruitment tool.

In trading accusations, each decries the other's refusal to acknowledge its view of reality, while ignoring the fact that each has acted in ways for which it faults the other - including deploying military forces to wars beyond their borders and supporting militias, both aimed at controlling whatever emerges from the debris of today's turmoil in Syria and Iraq.

Both countries have attempted to build on shared interests - defeating or at least marginalising Daesh and curbing the rise of Syrian Kurds seeking autonomy - but deep suspicions about the other's ambitions to benefit from the chaos have stopped them from reaching an arrangement that could reduce tensions. To reverse course and avoid worse, Turkey and Iran need to overcome mistrust and go beyond merely managing differences - with the risks of accidents, miscalculations and miscommunications this entails - and, for once, frankly acknowledge each other's core interests and security concerns.

To this end, they need to establish a channel for continuous high-level negotiations over Iraq and Syria. The pace of such meetings to date has been problematic: periodic senior-level encounters lasting one or two days, followed by relatively long periods of diplomatic vacuum often filled with the escalation of proxy wars and one-upmanship. Erdogan and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of Iran should designate personal representatives with the authority to manage the diplomatic channel.

Beyond this, the governments should also find ways to increase cooperation and trust, like sharing intelligence to better fight common foes and avoid accidental clashes, and coordinating steps that could defuse tensions where their spheres of influence collide. As a first step, in northern Iraq, Iran might offer to rein in Shia militias deployed in Nineveh Province in return for Turkey's agreeing to withdraw its tanks and other heavy weapons from the area. The United States and Russia, which have strong military ties with Turkey and Iran respectively, should support such steps, despite their differences.

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Ali Vaez is the International Crisis Group's senior Iran analyst

Source: khaleejtimes.com/iran-and-turkey-should-find-common-ground

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Gulf Security In 2017: Critical Threats

By Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

Jan 12, 2017

In a friendly conversation with an old man reading The Middle East newspaper at a coffee shop in Riyadh, a question was raised regarding the future of the region as we welcome the new year.

As the question is too broad to be answered in detail, it was narrowed down to address two main concerns: 1) Is terrorism going to end? and 2) Will bloodshed in the region be stopped and will peace prevail?

The short answer to these questions is no. Terrorism will not end, since the dramatic changes that have swept across the region in recent years have produced a fertile ground for terrorist organizations which have not developed their mechanisms of action to operate within the borders of a nation-state; rather, their brutal activities and ideology encroach on the nation state to form trans-boundary and transcontinental organizations.

Sponsors of terrorism, Iran for instance, will not give up their interference in the internal affairs of other countries or stop providing support to terrorist and sectarian organizations.

Terrorism is a sophisticated compound phenomenon that is directly linked to the raising of violent non-state actors within the international system.

This came to the fore in the first decade of this century as the 9/11 attacks marked a clear and evident demonstration. In those events, the United States, a traditional actor in the international arena, was facing Al-Qaeda, a new trans-boundary and transcontinental actor that has no nation, region or nation state institutions. The latter crossed the borders of Afghanistan to hit the US World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Five years later, the July war took place between Israel, a traditional actor, and Hezbollah, an international actor that trespasses the Lebanese borders. In fact, Lebanon never was a part of the war as a nation state; it had no plans for war, and it was the most negatively affected by the war. Likewise, the Gaza war was fought between Palestinian resistance movements including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine on the one hand, and Israel on the other. Most recently, the Syrian revolution, as part of the Arab Spring, brought new trans-boundary and transcontinental actors into the international system, including Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and Al-Nusra Front.

Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism will never give up interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Revolution is the foundation stone of the Iranian regime that transformed it into constitutional provisions under the pretext of aiding disadvantaged and oppressed people around the world. Thus, interference in the internal affairs of other countries has become Iran’s nature, duty and a source of its legitimacy. Such principles led Iran to disregard all international conventions and disrespect the sovereignty of states. Therefore, Iran will move forward with its arrogance.

When will the region witness peace? It can be argued that two main factors may bring peace to the region:

Firstly, when terrorism is defeated. Institutions of nation states have to be empowered in order to effectively contribute to the fight against terrorism. The security of nation states must be controlled, borders must be defended, and laws must be enacted to form national institutions based on a unified national vision. Such actions may reduce sub-loyalties that enhance roles of “non-state actors”.

Secondly, when Iran is neutralized. Iran can be neutralized either by international pressure to discourage its terrorist actions or by changing the foundation of its regime itself. It has to change from a revolutionary state to one that is committed to respecting the sovereignty of other states, and give up its interference in the internal affairs of other countries. These two factors are the only way out of the regional crisis.

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Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh.

Source: saudigazette.com.sa/opinion/gulf-security-2017-critical-threats/

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Tehran’s Besieged Fox Dies

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

12 January 2017

Reports that Iran is in danger following the death of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the regime’s prominent figures, are not true. Tehran lost its hawk years ago, stripping him of his powers, and putting him in isolation and under observation.

Moreover, the former president’s men were excluded from government. Even his daughter Faiza was imprisoned. His son Mahdi was given reassurances that he would not be held accountable if he voluntarily returned from abroad. No sooner had he arrived in Tehran than he was arrested and jailed.

The Iranian regime has been getting rid of its own members since the beginning of the 1979 revolution. Power-seekers plotted against Iran’s first President Abolhassan Banisadr, who was a close aide of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Banisadr fled the country and found political asylum in France, but he still fears for his life. Former Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, spokesperson of the revolution, was executed.

Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi are the latest among several leaders of Iran’s revolution to be put under house arrest. Both men objected to election forgery and misuse of power. All those men were regime members, not opponents.

The Iranian opposition was suspicious about Rafsanjani’s death, because he had been practicing his activities until his last day despite his old age. Regardless of whether he died of natural causes or not, it is certain that the current leadership practically killed him years ago when it isolated him. What had Rafsanjani done to be punished? No anti-regime action or stance had been reported against him.

His differences with the leadership were about details of Iranian policy, which is by no means a cause for dispute as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the one who decides policy. They were afraid of Rafsanjani because his legitimacy came after Khamenei’s — he was wealthy and one of the regime’s oldest leaders. All this made Rafsanjani a target for his opponents in government circles.

He had not been personally accused. Instead, members of his family were accused. This was due to his popularity on the Iranian street, the many international relationships he built after taking office, and his support of the regime’s “moderate” old leaders. In addition, he contributed to bringing former President Mohammad Khatami to power.

Iran’s government system has nothing to do with individuals; it is a collective religious and security system, just like past Communist regimes. It has nothing to do with positions and hierarchy, including the president — except for the supreme leader, who has the last say.

Rafsanjani was a political fox long before taking office. He was keen to portray himself as a moderate leader, but that did not mean he was moderate by international standards. He called on his regime’s members to end the West’s embargo on Iran several years before nuclear negotiations led to the same results he was calling for. However, his rivals did not back down until economic sanctions became so harsh that they threatened the regime’s existence.

Tehran’s fox was the one who took the reconciliation initiative with the Gulf states following the war to liberate Kuwait. He was keen to go to then-Crown Prince Abdullah, who headed the Saudi delegation to the Islamic Summit in Senegal. He met with the prince and reconciled with Saudi Arabia following a dispute over Iranian pilgrims.

The Kingdom had insisted on reducing their number to 70,000 from 120,000, in line with a decision by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and after sabotage by Iran’s Haj mission in Makkah. Tehran accepted the reduction, and the Kingdom agreed that the rites of innocence take place in the area dedicated to Iran’s Haj mission, but not inside the Grand Mosque or its neighborhood.

However, Saudi-Iranian relations collapsed again when Iranian intelligence carried out the bombing of Alkhobar Towers, in which many Americans were killed and injured. Rafsanjani spent two weeks in the Kingdom and reached a reconciliation.

Relations deteriorated for a third time when it was found that Tehran had been involved in the 2004 Riyadh bombings, carried out at the direction of Al-Qaeda leaders residing in Iran. When faced with evidence, Tehran could not deny its involvement, and claimed the operation was carried out behind its back.

Since then, the Kingdom and other countries in the region have not trusted the promises of Rafsanjani or any other Iranian leaders. His death proves to the world that Tehran’s leadership has failed to make the transition from the 1979 revolution to a modern, moderate state.

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 Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, and fomer editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally published.

Source: arabnews.com/node/1037641/columns

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How A Terror Tale Unfolded In Riyadh

By Mshari Al Thaydi

11 January 2017

Elimination of two wanted terrorists – Tayea Salem Yaslam al-Sayari and Talal Samran al-Saadi – in Riyadh few days ago highlighted the story of Saudi struggle against terror groups. Tayea, who prepared explosive belts, was a student on a scholarship program.

He gave up education and joined his brother Motea in ISIS. Talal did the same and joined his brother Fahd whose activity launched the major Saudi assault against al-Qaeda groups and their recent breed, the ISIS.

Officially, Saudi Arabia’s war against terrorism began 14 years ago, in March 2003. This was after security forces unearthed a house from where al-Qaeda was operating. The house, which served recruitment and storage purposes, was located in al-Jazira neighborhood of Riyadh. A huge explosion happened there killing al-Qaeda member Fahd, who was then 29 years old.

This explosion exposed al-Qaeda’s evil designs and came as a response to all those who had any doubts about the extent of al-Qaeda plans to set up an extensive terror network across the country.

This is where it all began. It was followed by a confrontation between Saudi security forces and the society, which was shocked by these developments. Operations began against al-Qaeda terror cells which were mostly formed of Saudi “sahwi” youths and dangerous commanders from Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, Egypt and other countries.

A New Approach

In May 2003, in a new approach adopted by the state to deal with terror groups, Saudi authorities revealed the first list of suspected terrorists. Thus came a list of 19 names and it included dangerous men such as the first founder of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia Yusef al-Ayeri, his successor Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, Saleh al-Awfi, Khaled Hajj, a dangerous Yemeni al-Qaeda member, and others.

Five days later, a terrorist group which included five men from those on the list raided three residential compounds in Riyadh using booby-trapped cars. The attacks, which took place in May, 2003 in east of Riyadh, later came to be known as al-Hamra and Granada attacks.

Subsequent developments took dangerous dimensions and the most recent has been the killing of Talal and Tayea in the al-Yasmeen neighborhood of Riyadh. A lot has been written in the media and said during religious sermons since the launch of operations to neutralize terror outfits. However, the ideology has only expanded and branched across the world.

I think it is time to establish “real” research centers to examine this problem as it truly as and not as some preachers think it is. These centers must analyze this ideology’s intellectual, media and social manifestations. These research centers must take matters seriously and they must work hard and be patient while performing their duties. The beginning of the healing process is the accurate understanding of the disease.

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Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/01/11/How-a-terror-tale-unfolded-in-Riyadh.html

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Israeli Occupation In The Dock As Much As Sergeant Azaria

By Yossi Mekelberg

11 January 2017

In front of a packed courtroom last week, an Israeli military court convicted Sergeant Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier, of the manslaughter of a Palestinian militant. He shot the wounded Abdel Fattah al-Sharif at point blank range, killing al-Sharif, who had attacked other Israeli soldiers with a knife only minutes earlier, but was shot by them.

The court rejected the soldier’s version that al-Sharif posed any threat while he was lying bleeding on the ground. This case would never have reached an indictment, let alone a conviction, had it not been for the presence of a human rights researcher from the Israeli organization B’tselem, who recorded this gruesome extrajudicial killing.

Anyone with any common sense and decency would have understood that the only logical conclusion to this footage was indictment, which would most likely lead to a conviction of at least manslaughter. Instead of responding with universal embarrassment and condemnation, this act found wide support within the right wing forces in Israel and their leaders in government.

Not only was an Israeli soldier in the dock, but the entire Israeli occupation and the control of the lives of almost five million Palestinians for nearly 50 years. This killing should not have caught anyone by surprise, considering the ample evidence of similar gross violations of Palestinians’ human rights.

According to B’etselem’s spokesperson Roy Yellin, in recent years there have been 719 cases of bodily harm, ranging from injuries to fatalities, which potentially merited indictment. However, the Israeli authorities turned a blind eye.

Split Society

The split in the reaction to the case of Sgt. Azaria is indicative of the divisions within the Israeli society, vis-à-vis relations with the Palestinians, and an example of how the occupation has changed Israeli society, for the worse, beyond recognition. It has also exposed how vulnerable the supremacy the rule of law is in Israel and the preeminence of populist-nationalist politicians in the country’s politics.

Interestingly enough, it was the very highest echelons of the Israeli military, including the Chief of Staff, Gadi Eizenkot, who were quick to distance themselves from Sgt. Azaria’s behavior. For them it represented a complete breakdown in discipline which if allowed to prevail is bound to compromise the professionalism of the army, would make their daily tasks more difficult, and may end in the army becoming no more than a militia-like entity.

The corollary of this was for them to allow the courts, and the courts only, to decide whether Azaria was guilty or not. On the other hand politicians from the right wing coalition, including Prim Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders of the settlers, reacted diametrically opposite. For them it became an opportunity to increase their popularity among their political supporters, portraying this law breaker soldier as a hero.

Ministers ignored due process, declaring the innocence of Azaria even before any indictment was filed. One minister, in her typical hysterical and inciting manner, threatened that a conviction would harm the ability of the Israeli military to defend Israel, and would lead to youth avoiding serving in combat units.

It is mind boggling that a leader of whatever political persuasion would argue that unless the country allows war crimes to occur, it loses its ability to defend itself. The calls to pardon the soldier, even before the length of sentence has been decided, undermine the country’s judiciary system and make a mockery of the country’s democratic character. This is in addition to a wave of vile incitement against the judges in this trial and the Chief of Staff following the verdict.

Victimizing An Entire Nation

Those in the political system or among the settlers, who are quick to defend the soldier’s horrific act, are legitimizing the unlawful harming of Palestinians. The entire occupation is based on victimizing an entire nation in the name of Israel’s alleged security and ideological needs. It is based on scaring the whole population into submission.

Daily humiliation at checkpoints; breaking into and searching houses in the middle of the night; confiscating land and preventing people from traveling freely and earning their livelihood; are just a few examples of the daily hardships suffered by Palestinians in the West Bank. And yes, in a civilized society even an assailant has rights. When al-Sharif was incapacitated by the soldiers his fate should have been decided by the courts and not by a mob trial.

The military establishment should bear responsibility for allowing soldiers to be exposed daily to the influence of some of the most extreme settlers. In the case of Hebron, the scene of the killing of al-Sharif, the messianic and most racist of settlers are allowed to indoctrinate soldiers who serve there and even give them gifts. While Palestinians are put on trial for the most minor of offences, some soldiers and settlers are getting away, literally at times, with murder.

The judges were explicit in their verdict that what Sgt. Azaria did was a criminal act, breaking the law in complete disregard of military orders. What the court could not say is that the social discourse within Israeli society makes these acts permissible, even desirable. It is an atmosphere that does not perceive Palestinians as equal human beings entitled to the same rights even on their own land.

When the occupation becomes the norm and the subjugation of millions of people to its whims a daily routine, there will always be those that will see this as consent, even encouragement, to actions such as the one condemned in court last week. However, condemnation and putting the soldier behind bars without rethinking the root causes of this is meaningless.

Those who defend shooting an injured person, who poses no threat, at this point are destroying any semblance of democracy in Israel and its legal justice pillar. Not only is it morally abhorrent, but it also becomes a main source of radicalization among Palestinians. In the process it also deepens the frictions within Israeli society, bringing it to a breaking point.

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Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East, human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international media on a wide range of international issues and you can find him on Twitter @YMekelberg.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/01/11/Israeli-occupation-in-the-dock-as-much-as-Sergeant-Azaria.html

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Barack Obama’s Successes And Failures

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

11 January 2017

President Barack Obama will soon vacate the Oval Office after having served two terms and staying in power for eight years. Undoubtedly, it is not easy to pass judgment on the achievements he has made or to decide how important they are at the present time. However, Obama’s failures will be a subject of long debate among many.

Some will say that these failures are few compared with Obama’s many accomplishments while others will blow the whole matter out of proportion and say that the failures have outweighed and obliterated Obama’s successes.

Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize around eight months after being elected president of the United States. The Nobel Prize committee did not award him the prize as recognition of concrete achievements but for the promising achievements he was going to make. Usually, the prize is awarded to persons who have excelled and made great achievements in their fields. But for Obama, the situation was different.

It was undoubtedly a great accomplishment, if not a miracle, so to speak, for an African-American to be elected president of the United States for the first time in the country’s history. Despite the fact that we live in an age of technology, not miracles, Obama won the election and became president in 2009. Who would have thought that something like this could happen in a society that is controlled by white people and where black people are not treated equally?

Born to a Kenyan father and a white American mother, Obama was raised by his maternal grandparents. He excelled at his studies and earned prestigious college degrees from the best American universities. He served as a law school professor and was able to prove that he had what it takes to be a candidate of the Democratic Party and later the 44th US president.

US Economy

The consequences of the legacy of former US president George W. Bush were heavy and filled with crises. The effects of Bush’s presidency took the American economy, and the global one for that matter, down. During his era, the economy hit rock bottom. However, Obama succeeded in reducing the unemployment rate, reviving the auto industry, and driving corporate taxes down. Reducing such taxes created job opportunities in the market. Obama also cut the budget deficit.

Obama’s main achievement on the national level is clearly Obamacare. The main objective of it is to provide medical healthcare services to the majority of Americans at a lower cost. Obama’s predecessors were unable to reform the healthcare system. Obamacare was enacted despite Republican opposition and Trump threatened to repeal it if he won the election.

But Trump later said that he would not cancel it, but would introduce amendments to it. After all, the Republicans do not have any other alternative at present. Moreover, over 20 million Americans who benefit from Obamacare will not forget this achievement.

As far as US foreign policy is concerned, Obama made some promises but totally failed to fulfill them. He could not stop Israel from building settlements in the Palestinian territories and he failed to resolve the Palestinian issue and reach a two-state solution for the Palestine-Israel conflict. Although he expressed his deep affection for Israel several times, just like his predecessors had done, he could not build strong relations with the Israeli prime minister.

Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay but he failed. However, he reduced the number of inmates who were held there without being brought to trial. He also failed to stop the enactment of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) although he opposed it and vetoed it. Two thirds of Congress voted to override his veto.

Diplomatic Successes

Obama’s successes include his historic visit to Cuba and his efforts to end the American embargo on that country that was imposed over half a century ago. His visit to Myanmar following the end of military rule there and signing business agreements with local officials was another success. Nevertheless, he failed to exercise pressure on the Myanmar government to end genocide and ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims.

Obama also visited Vietnam as part of his administration’s strategy to focus on the East. As a result, the visit made China angry. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, the city that was completely destroyed when Americans dropped an atomic bomb on it, is another feat. It was the first time an American president visited the city while he was still in power. But Obama never apologized to the Japanese people; he only said in a speech that he wished that we had a nuclear-free world.

Another success was the nuclear agreement with Iran. Obama said the agreement would prevent Iran from producing and manufacturing nuclear weapons. However, President-elect Trump said that he would tear up the agreement and then later said that he would amend some of its articles.

Despite the failures of the Obama administration in the Arab and Muslim world, he was able to pull off a number of initiatives, and in the final analysis, history will place him among the most successful US presidents.

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Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs.

Source: english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2017/01/11/Barack-Obama-s-successes-and-failures.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/middle-east-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/why-palestine-is-still-relevant--new-age-islam-s-selection,-12-january-2017/d/109688




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