An Event and a Regional Trend

The statements and comments that accompany Annapolis conference enhance the belief stressed by many comments and analysis in Arab press about the reality of Bush’s goals that stand behind calling for this meeting.
The Israeli stand implies a rejection of the topics of the final status and stresses the priority of the Palestinian authority’s participation in repressing the resistance’s factions while Israel continues its preparations to launch a war on Gaza under the title of eliminating the Palestinian resistance. The Israeli occupation forces launch daily aggressions on Gaza and the West Bank while the death toll rises among Palestinians and the collective punishment continues in Gaza.
The photos of some Arab officials with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were marketed by the Israeli press saying they are the most important product of Annapolis, while Olmert’s words to Abbas lacked decency and seemed like dictations.
Bush reaped from the meeting an amount of photographs that made the US media busy. This clearly shows the administration’s wish to suggest to the American public opinion and to the Democratic Party and its constituencies that the White House behaves in accordance with Baker-Hamilton’s recommendations and therefore there are no justifications for accusing it of failure in the Middle East.
The Syrian presence stressed again through the speech of deputy foreign minister Faisal al-Miqdad Syria’s invariables and the Israeli complete withdrawal from the occupied lands, pointing out that there is no honest mediator.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

Lebanese press and political circles focused on the loyalists’ proposal to name the army’s leader for presidency after representative Saad al-Hariri rejected this idea when it was proposed by the house speaker during their meetings before the end of Lahoud’s term. al-Hariri and all the other sides rejected this nomination in principle and some representatives launched at that time a campaign on the idea under the title of refusing the modification of the constitution or electing any military personality as a president and Walid Jumblatt officially informed the army’s leader of this.
The new proposal raised a number of questions and possibilities, because it happened in a time of constitutional problems as some opponents said. The opposition has doubts on the honesty of the loyalists’ intentions. General Aoun said he is waiting for proposing the constitutional modification on the parliamentary blocs as an expression of the seriousness of the proposal in order to say his opinion about it, but the house speaker expressed regret, because the loyalists had earlier before obstructed his call for electing Suleiman as an approved president, stressing the importance of agreement and saying: he has an idea about surpassing the constitutional complexes which prevents the modification of the constitution. Al-Wafa bloc for resistance called for the resignation of al-Siniora as a natural introduction to conciliation, especially if the issue requires a constitutional modification, hailing the importance of Suleiman and his national commitment.
Some analysts considered the loyalists step as a direct result of their information about the popularity of General Aoun on the Christian level especially after the presidential vacuum which stressed to the public opinion that his idea about the marginalization of the Christians was right from the beginning. Other analysts said that the loyalists approving of Michel Suleiman’s nomination is possibly a result of information about the nature of the possible understandings between Syria and the US administration and their direct reflection on the Lebanese file.
A big part of the debate concentrates on the constitutional topic and the fears grow from a plan that aims at prolonging the vacuum through maneuvers that prevent reaching a mechanism to approve the president. Sources close to the loyalists stressed the seriousness of proposing Michel Suleiman after the fall of the lists of March 14 forces candidates, and after it became clear that presidency should be given either to Oun or to Michel Suleiman.

Arab and International Press

David Ignatius said in an article published in The Economist that Annapolis conference has succeeded in doing some thing and it may lead to the required peace.
Paul Faleli and Fred Gedrich said in an article published in some Arab papers that America described the Iranian revolutionary guards as terrorist organization but most of the Americans think this is not enough, pointing out that the opinion polls revealed that 52% of the Americans support a US war on Iran.
Thomas Friedman said in an article published in some Arab papers that the Middle East witnesses something which was not familiar before which is the attempt of the moderates to sit together to confront the extremists.
Paul Richter and Richard Bordeaux said in an article published in some Arab papers that Annapolis conference avoided tackling the real issues.
The Emirate paper Al-Khalij said in its editorial that Annapolis may disappoint the Palestinians, because the balance on the gorund does not serve them and their divisions are deep.
Al-Bayan said in its editorial that the US sponsorship of Annapolis did not secure a sufficient momentum for this conference.

Lebanese Press

As-Safir said the Lebanese sides should seriously search for the constitutional means in order to reach the required goal on the level of the presidential merit in order to prevent prolonging the presidential vacuum.
Ad-Diyar said all the loyal leaders support the nomination of the army’s leader Michel Suleiman to presidency and the search for modifying the constitution became serious.
An-Nahar said head of the international committee that investigates into al-Hariri assassination serge Bramertz said that he achieved progress in this case, but he did not reveal names yet.

Television Stations’ News in Lebanon

Al-Manar said the ruling team has decided to nominate Michel Suleiman for presidency after rejecting him at the beginning.
The NTV said the loyalists want to modify the constitution after they claimed to be its guards before.
The NBN said the nomination of Suleiman dominates the political scene in Lebanon and Samir Geagea gave a positive sign in this respect.
The OTV said the loyalists’ silence over their new candidate was overwhelming in order to touch the pulse concerning this new proposal.
The Future said Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora has received a copy of Serge Bramertz’s new report on the assassination of al-Hariri.

Television Stations’ Interviews in Lebanon

Program: What Else?
Official of Hamas in Lebanon Osama Hamdan said the goals of Annapolis conference are Arab normalization with Israel.
Palestinian intellectual Azmi Bshara said Annapolis will satisfy the Arab sides by talking about the Arab peace initiative and the two-state solution but without saying where the borders of the Palestinian state are.
Syrian writer Emad Fawzi Shu’aibi said the Syrians went to Annapolis as critics and Syria criticized the US role in the area.

Tendencies is a daily political watch newsletter about the Near East, issued by New Orient News agency in Beirut, Lebanon. It is available on in Arabic, English and French languages. Also worth a read is Indicators, the daily Near East economic watch newsletter, available in Arabic and English.