An Event and a Regional Trend

The Maneuvers Ended and Olmert Plans to Invade Gaza

The huge Israeli drill which ended revealed a number of gaps that Arab and Israeli analysts talked about. The popular interaction was dim despite the high tone of the political and military leaders who tried to change the drill into a muscular show against Syria, Iran and Hezbollah through the threats that they repeated in the last few days.
Analysts said the real aim of this Israeli mobilization is amending the spiritual state inside the Israeli army and on the level of the public opinion in the light of the 2006 shock. Two indicators of the Israeli priorities appeared:
- 1. Press information said the signature of the declaration of principles between Olmert and Abbas will be Bush’s gift to the Israeli state on the 60th anniversary of its foundation before the end of his presidential term. The declaration of principles will exclude the topic of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees’ right to return and link the Israeli withdrawal to the cooperation of the Palestinian authority with Israel in eliminating resistance groups under the title of fighting terrorism. The deadline of this framework will be five years before terminating the final condition.
- 2. The Israeli prime minister threatened to invade Gaza in his comment on the qualitative operation of the resistance in Gaza which resulted in killing three Israelis. This warning takes place in the shadow of the signs of a US-Israeli decision to invade Gaza or bomb it and launch an expanded campaign of assassinations to eliminate resistance cadres. Meanwhile, Egypt took measures to tighten siege on Gaza under the title of preventing the Palestinian violation of the Gaza borders with Egypt.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

Kouchner’s Retreat and al-Siniora’s Escalation

The Lebanese press focused on the following developments in the light of the current political communications and the house speaker’s initiative concerning the Lebanese crisis and the interactions of international investigation and the disappearance of al-Siddiq:
- 1. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner gave up his statements which targeted the house speaker. A number of French official sources in addition to the charge de affaires in Beirut announced their support to Berri’s initiative. This pushed Kouchner to give up his statements and announce his support Berri’s visit to France whenever he wishes.
- 2. The Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora escalated against Berri and said he explained to the Arab sides that he met why his government boycotted Damascus’s summit and that Lebanon is a hostage in the hands of Syria and Iran. The opposition said this stand reflects the US instructions to the Lebanese government.
- 3. The press information talked about a Saudi-French understanding to support the initiative of Amr Musa whose sources said that he will not return to Beirut before the appearance of signs that allow the progress of the Arab initiative. Informed sources said limiting the initiative to one item, which is the election of the president, is useless because it prolongs the crisis and that al-Siniora considers his staying in power is linked to the continuity of the crisis.
- 4. The issue of Zuheir al-Siddiq interacted on two levels. The Kuwaiti paper al-Siyasah said it received a phone call from al-Siddiq which is full of contradictions while the BBC tried to call the paper to get the correct story but in vain because nobody answered.
- 5. The family of al-Siddiq in Syria asked the French authorities to reveal the destiny of its son. Al-Siddiq brothers said they think that the sides that fabricated his false testimony eliminated him and that they accuse the Lebanese minister Marwan Hamadah of killing their brother saying that he is the uncle of al-Siddiq’s wife.
- 6. Lebanese press interpreted the parliamentary movements in a way that the aspects of a moderate bloc are going to be formed. Some analysts linked the stand of the representative Michel al-Murr to the stand of Tripoli bloc and the representative Botros Harb which suggest that there are internal differences concerning some titles and topics.
- 7. Informed sources in Beirut said the capitals of Sharm esh-sheik and al-Siniora government carry out a US decision to prevent any solution in Lebanon until mid-May, the date of signing the declaration of principles between Olmert and Abbas, which will be preceded by another holocaust in Gaza to eliminate resistance.

Arab and International Press

The Emirate paper al-Khalij said the Democratic candidate Barack Obama did not say anything new when he said that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic mistake. He thinks this mistake weakened the US strategic ability to move in the area and the world.
The Iranian weekly Ahdath said the reformist front Musharakat accuses Nejad’s government of uttering slogans concerning all the issues without implementing any of them.
The Iranian paper Roz said the background of the item of news mentioned by some Iranian papers concerning ousting some Iranian officials is not clear yet.
Al-Bayan said in its editorial the dispute between Egypt and Hamas concerning the borders raises concern. Israeli sources said the US proposed delaying the complicated issues on the Palestinian track insisting on reaching a declaration of principles before the end of this year.
The Israeli paper Yidiot Aharonot said the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert escapes meeting the former US president Jimmy Carter who will visit the area.
The Washington Post said the US president cancelled troop’s withdrawal from Iraq.
The Los Angeles Times said Barack Obama severed his relations with Palestinian intellectuals and announced his support of Israel’s right to security.

Satellite Stations’ Interviews

Program: Belarabi
Eiad Alawi, the former Iraqi prime minister said Baghdad did not fall but what happened is the fall of the former regime.

Satellite Stations’ News

The Syrian satellite station said the Israeli authorities prevented the entrance of fuel to Gaza.

Lebanese Press

Al-Akhbar said Sharm el-Sheik meeting between king Abadallah and the Egyptian president proved that the disputes among Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria are very complicated.
As-Safir said the house speaker accepted the proposal of al-Maradah trend to elect general Suleiman as president immediately.
Ad-Diyar said Rice and Satterfield called for boycotting Damascus’ summit before holding it pointing out that Zuher al-Siddiq was seen for the last time with the adviser of Saad al-Hariri Hani Hamoud.

Television Stations’ News in Lebanon

Al-Manar said the prime minister escalates attack on the house speaker because he feels he will leave his office if the solution approaches.
The NTV said al-Siniora continued his obstruction of the endeavors to reach a solution for the crisis.
The NBN said the illegitimate prime minister received a pass word to launch a campaign against the house speaker’s attempt to activate dialogue.
The OTV said Damascus was partially able to stop the attack on its summit and the loyalists succeeded in obstructing the house speaker’s endeavors.
The LBC said the Lebanese are comfortable in the game of negative waiting for the area’s developments.
The Future said the prime minister’s tour continued and the stands of the states that participated in the summit, or did not participate, became clear.

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, French, German, and Spanish languages. Also worth a read is Indicators, the daily Near East economic watch newsletter, available in Arabic, English and Spanish.