An Event and a Regional Trend

The US acceptance of the Syrian condition was the major event in the eve of the preparations to hold Annapolis conference while it became clear that no progress was achieved on the Palestinian track in the shadow of Israel’s insistence on rejecting any commitments. Olmert also wants to form an alliance with the Palestinian authority and the Arab governments in order to eliminate the Palestinian resistance under the title of the priority of security, dropping the right to return and the Arabs’ recognition of the Jewish identity of Israel. This will allow Israel to expel the 1948 Arabs.
Syria achieved a victory by forcing the US to include its conditions in the conference’s agenda. The Syrian delegation’s presence will be highly active in issues related to Palestinian rights and facing the Israeli conditions and pressures that aim at expanding the circle of Arab normalization with Israel.
The power of the Syrian logic convinced Saudi Arabia to cling to the content of the Arab peace initiative and the concept of a just and comprehensive compromise.
On the Palestinian level, the conference will lead to a new stage of conflict between Palestinian factions and the ruling team, especially if Abbas gives up the right to return and other invariables that the late president Yasser Araft has refused o give up and paid his life as a price for this.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

The sources of Fouad al-Siniora’s government have refused to speak about administering affairs and the prime minister confirmed that his government assumes all the authorities, denying press leaks about guarantees to direct the vacuum arranged by Arab and foreign delegations that came to Beirut in the last ten days of Emile Lahoud’s term.
The loyal representatives said what happens is transferring the president’s authorities that the opposition warned from and drew a red line around it. Leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea clings to the choice of electing a president through the half plus one quorum, while the political forces look forward to what representative Walid Jumblatt will announce in his press conference after his decision to try to meet the house speaker Nabih Berry and General Oun and directly communicate with the leadership of Hezbollah. But the differences are clear in the tone of Jumblatt and the statements of some representatives from his bloc. This raises the traditional doubts that surround his colorful political behavior.
Leader of the National Liberal Trend General Aoun started a campaign of political consultations with the Christian personalities in all the sectors. He intends to lead a movement that rejects the marginalization of the Christians, which reached its apex in the presidential vacuum. He also harshly retaliated against the stands of the loyal leaders, who turned their backs to his nomination and initiative.
Consultations among the leaders of the opposition continue and the opposition studies the options of dealing with the new condition, especially in the light of the US attempts to prolong the vacuum. Some European sources in Beirut conveyed information to the French paper Sunday, which talked about the possibility of proposing the election of the army’s leader Michel Suleiman in the coming few days. The paper said that some loyal sides may be behind this initiative despite the need to modify the constitution, which was opposed by them before.
Next Friday is the new date for electing the president, but nothing happened in Beirut to dissipate the belief that the vacuum may end quickly. This means a new stage of political conflict starting and will cover the responsibility of the vacuum, the quality of the authority that the Americans want despite the lack of the three major sects’ support, in addition to other leaderships in the other sects: the orthodox, the Catholic, the Armenians, the Druze, the Sunni, the Alawites. This was never experienced in Beirut before.

Arab and Foreign Press

Uzi ben Zeman said in an article published in the Israeli newspapers that the Prime Minister Olmert heads for Annapolis without any certainty and the political map now reflects the masses’ stands: Olmert heads for the meeting while his hands are chained. If he gives up the conditions and dictations imposed on him by Avigdor Lieberman and Elli Yashai, he will lose his parliamentary majority.
Tsfi B’rel said in an article published in the Israeli papers that Annapolis conference aims at confronting the Iranian danger. Syria and Israel will hold negotiations on the Golan; Israel will set a condition which is severing relations with Iran. Syria will respond so Iran becomes outside.
The Emirate paper Al-Khalij said in its editorial that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has worked hard to get anything from the Israelis before heading for Annapolis, but he did not succeed in changing the Israeli stand.
Al-Bayan said in its editorial that in its attempt to secure an expanded Arab presence at Annapolis conference, the US administration offered Arab states a number of incentives, the most important among them is that Bush will hand heads of delegations a calming message that confirms his commitment to the two states. Washington offered forming a committee to follow up the peace process on the Palestinian track and holding the conference’s second round in Moscow to discuss the Syrian and Lebanese Tracks.

Lebanese Press

An-Nahar said electing a president is not possible in the shadow of the vacuum now, because the mediations are paralyzed, waiting for Annapolis’s results.
As-Safir said Annapolis has caused a sharp Lebanese division before holding it and the decision of al-Siniora government to attend the conference in the shadow of the absence of Lebanese national consensus has caused a shock in the opposition circles.
Al-Akhbar said that Syria and Lebanon fall in the trap of Annapolis, pointing out that Damascus repeats the mistake of empty negotiations, while a-Siniora forgives Olmert for his crimes in Lebanon.

Television Stations’ News in Lebanon

Al-Manar said Foud al-Siniora’s government’s decision to participate in Annapolis will escalate the crisis.
The NTV said that the republic is in safe hands and there is no need for the anxiety of the Christians.
The NBN said the image today is presidential vacuum and governmental vacuum, while the house speaker will continue his endeavor to achieve conciliation.
The OTV said a new Christian mechanism will be adopted to confirm the presence of the Christians in the presidential merit and in the Lebanese national affairs.
The LBC said there are no signs of agreement before the coming Parliamentary session.
The Future said the house speaker Nabih Berry has made a phone call with Iranian foreign minister Manusahr Mutaqi and discussed with him the presidential merit.

Television Stations’ Interviews in Lebanon

Program: Hour’s talk
Head of the national liberal trend General Michel Aoun has asked the Maronite Patrirach Sfeir to reveal the side that obstructs the Christian meeting in Bkerki, saying the patriarch’s role is spiritual not political and the political forces should talk with General Aoun.

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.