Qatar's Emir Cedes Power to Son - Ellen Knickmeyer (Wall Street Journal)
Qatar's Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, 61, who transformed his nation into an international economic and political player after overthrowing his own father in 1995, ceded power Tuesday in favor of his 33-year-old son, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani - an unusual move in a region where few Arab rulers willingly surrender office while alive.
The emir made no mention of whether his influential prime minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, would retain office.
Sheik Tamim was born in 1980 and educated at Britain's military academy at Sandhurst.
Qatar under the emir made a reputation of challenging fellow Arab governments. The Al-Jazeera news channel, established in 1996, provided critical coverage of other Arab governments.
Qatar also actively supported rebels in Libya and Syria, supported regional Muslim Brotherhood movements, and challenged Saudi Arabia's dominance as a patron of conservative strains in Islam.
Poll: Arabs Want Democracy, Oppose Religious Influence on Public Affairs - Rami G. Khouri (Daily Star-Lebanon)
The second annual Arab Opinion Index has just been released by the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, comprising interviews with over 20,000 men and women across 14 Arab countries in 2012-2013.
82% of Arabs see a democratic political system as appropriate for their own country. A large majority of Arabs also defines itself as religious - but a majority also opposes religious officials having influence on public affairs.
61% described the Arab uprisings as a positive development, while 77% supported the departure of Bashar Assad from the Syrian presidency.
See also 2012-2013 Arab Opinion Index (Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies)
Egypt Villagers "Proud" of Killing Shiites - Haitham El-Tabei (AFP)
Residents of the Egyptian village of Abu Mussalem outside Cairo said they were "proud" of the mob lynching of four Shiite Muslims, after weeks of anti-Shiite rhetoric in the media.
Witnesses and security officials said that on Sunday hundreds of residents surrounded the house of a Shiite resident after learning that a leading Shiite cleric was inside.
The mob threw firebombs at the house, hoping to set it ablaze, while chanting "Shiites are infidels." Then they stormed the house, dragged the four Shiites out and beat them to death.
"We're happy about what happened. It should have happened long ago," said teacher Mohamed Ismail, to the approving nods of residents.
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- Little Momentum for Kerry Ahead of Israel Visit - Anne Gearan
Secretary of State John Kerry has been unable to win quick agreement for new peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and as he returns to Israel this week, the sense of momentum surrounding his effort is fading. Kerry had hoped to announce earlier this month that both sides were ready to return to the negotiating table after a lull lasting most of the past five years, but PA President Mahmoud Abbas is dragging his feet, resisting strong U.S. pressure to drop his conditions for new talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to restart talks, and Israeli officials squarely blame Abbas for the delay. "I think we should stop negotiating about the negotiations. I think we should just get on with it," Netanyahu said. (Washington Post)
- Dangerous Days for Egypt's Islamist President - Jeffrey Fleishman
The circle is tightening around Mohamed Morsi, an accidental president turned vilified leader who, with barricades and soldiers protecting his palace, faces what may prove to be the most dangerous days of his bruising one-year rule.
Nationwide protests are planned to mark Morsi's one-year anniversary in office on June 30. More than 15 million people have signed petitions demanding his resignation. Even the tale of his escape from prison during the uprising that overthrew Mubarak in 2011 was clouded by court accusations Sunday that foreign militant groups, including Hamas, masterminded the breakout.
A recent survey by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research found that 52% of Egyptians disapproved of Morsi and 42% supported him.
(Los Angeles Times)
- Egypt Steps Up Gaza Tunnel Crackdown - Nidal al-Mughrabi
Egypt has intensified a crackdown on smuggling tunnels to Gaza, dashing the hopes of many Palestinians that Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood from which Hamas was born, would significantly ease Egyptian border restrictions on Gaza. As a result, the price of cement in Gaza has soared from 350 shekels ($95) a ton to 800 shekels ($217). Palestinians who bought relatively cheap petrol smuggled from Egypt now have to pay for fuel imported from Israel selling for double the price.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Canadian FM: Iran Has 2-3 Months to Prove It's Resolving Nuclear Crisis - David Horovitz
Visiting Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has warned Iran that it has only two to three months to prove to the West that it seeks a negotiated resolution to the crisis over its rogue nuclear program.
The diplomatic process is "nearing the end," Baird said. He added that the election of Hasan Rowhani as president does not justify any further Western patience, since Rowhani, as Iran's former nuclear negotiator, "doesn't need to have any time to read up on the files." "These people don't deserve the benefit of the doubt," he added. (Times of Israel)
- In Rocket Attack from Gaza, Islamic Jihad Settles Score with Hamas - Amos Harel
Sunday's rocket fire into southern Israel was the result of an internal conflict between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, after an Islamic Jihad activist was killed as he was being arrested by Hamas security personnel in Gaza.
- Israel's GI Bill - Editorial
Israel's Ministerial Committee on Legislation is weighing approval of a law providing IDF veterans and anyone who has performed civilian service with a variety of long-overdue but hardly dramatic perks including preferred status in public sector job placement and accommodation in university dorms.
The GI Bill in America, far from being challenged as discriminatory, is lauded and upheld as an example of society's gratitude to those who protect it.
But what is self-evident in the U.S. is decried as racist in Israel, where appreciably lesser perks to Israeli veterans are denounced as a sinister plot against Arab citizens. This, despite the fact that Arabs can easily avail themselves of these perks without doing military service - something that is quite impossible in the American setting. (Jerusalem Post)
- Despite Sanctions, Iran's Money Flow Continues - Avi Jorisch
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, facilitates about a million global financial transactions per day by serving as an interbank messaging system for crediting and debiting accounts. While
Swift has barred 14 Iranian banks blacklisted by the EU, the other 16 Iranian banks blacklisted by the U.S. are free to work within the global financial system.
U.S. banking regulators and Treasury officials have an obligation to make Swift stop its dealings with Iranian banks or cease business operations in the U.S. If Swift continues to service banks that the U.S. Treasury has designated as engaged in "specified unlawful activities," the U.S. government can take immediate legal action and freeze Swift's U.S.-based assets. The writer, a former Treasury Department official, is senior fellow for counterterrorism at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington.
(Wall Street Journal)
- The Judea and Samaria Account - Yoaz Handel
It is possible to narrow the debate on the future of the West Bank. The settlement blocs (12%) will not go to the Palestinians. Areas A and B, about 40%, will not be settled by Israelis. That leaves 48% from Area C in which 100,000 settlers live. Over this territory there is a serious debate that crosses political camps in Israel. But as opposed to the public discourse, this has no similarity to the struggle in the '90s over the question of the entire Land of Israel. Twenty years after signing the Oslo Agreements, at least we should argue over the correct question. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 26June2013)
- The Need for Real Palestinian Political Reform - Jonathan Schanzer
After he resigned on Sunday, newly appointed PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah tweeted: "The situation in this country forced me to resign. Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform."
Abbas wanted a weak premier who could enable him to consolidate power. He tapped Hamdallah because he was a political neophyte and a Fatah party loyalist. Hamdallah's resignation makes it clear that in the post-Fayyad era, the need for improved Palestinian governance is an issue that will not go away.
The writer is vice president for research at FDD.
(Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
- Lebanon's Apartheid Laws - Khaled Abu Toameh
Although Palestinians have lived in Lebanon for more than six decades, they are still treated as foreigners when it comes to obtaining a work permit, according to Lebanon's Daily Star. Three years ago, the Lebanese government decided to amend its Apartheid law that denies Palestinians the right to work in 20 professions, including as doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers or accountants. Although three years have passed since the law was amended, nothing has changed for the Palestinians in Lebanon. By contrast, anyone visiting an Israeli hospital would quickly notice the significant number of Arab doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
Gaza Illustrates Palestinian Statehood - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
- With all the talk about the need to create a Palestinian state for the sake of justice or even to assure that Israel remains a Jewish state, Gaza provides a daily clinic on the consequences of more Israeli territorial withdrawals. Gaza is for all intents and purposes already an independent Palestinian state in all but name.
- When Israel withdrew every last soldier or settler from Gaza in 2005, there was hope that it would provide a chance for the Palestinians to show that they truly could govern themselves.
- But from the first day after the withdrawal - when mobs burned abandoned synagogues and tore down the greenhouses that had been given to the Palestinians to use - what has happened in Gaza is an illustration of what the world could expect if an independent Palestinian state ever actually comes to pass.
- So long as violent groups dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state dominate the political culture of the Palestinians, the prospect of the West Bank becoming another Gaza makes the high-flown rhetoric about the two-state solution look naive at best.
- Anyone who wants to know why Israelis are skeptical about a Palestinian state in the West Bank need only look at Gaza.
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