An Event and a Regional Trend

Bush’s Speech, the Right to Return and Gaza

The new Balfour declaration that the US president launched in his speech at the Israeli Knesset reverberated in the area. The press said the speech lays the foundation of an American enmity to the Arabs and an infinite support for Israel’s aggressive policy which rejects any just compromise with the Arabs.
- 1. Attention in Israel is focused on the topic of the right to return which was present in the speeches of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the foundation of Israel. This was a priority in the Israeli proposals among the leftists and the right wing circles through demanding settling the Palestinian refugees in their locations and rejecting the idea of the right to return in principle as a priority in any approach to the idea of the two states. Bush’s speech at the Knesset was widely welcomed and Israel called for enhancing military cooperation against Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah amid stressing on the US nuclear and traditional guarantee to secure Israel’s military superiority in the area.
- 2. The Israeli threats to invade Gaza escalated while the Egyptian mediation continued to reach a truce through the meetings of Hamas’s delegation in Cairo. Israel demanded an unconditioned releasing of Gilad Shalitt. This was considered by analysts as heading for a new escalation while press reports said that president Bush will force Ababs to submit to the Israeli security demands without offering him anything in return or freezing the settlement activities and lifting the checkpoints.

An Event and a Lebanese Trend

Doha Conference and the Possibilities of Compromise

Dialogue started between the authority and the loyalists in Doha (Qatar) while predictions increased in Lebanon about the appearance of different stands at the conference. A number of observers focused on some of the loyalists’ statements, which run counter to the agenda of the Arab ministerial committee. Essays and comments in the Lebanese press anticipated reaching an agreement on the position of the unity government’s head, the elections law and electing general Michel Suleiman as a president, next Tuesday.
- 1. The press talked about an international agreement to arrange the compromise quickly in Qatar in order to limit the losses and stop the collapse of the loyal team. The information said this understanding was reached in the televised conference of the international regional group which met already in Kuwait on the sidelines of Iraq’s neighboring states’ conference. This resulted in authorizing Qatar to lead the Arab league endeavors and accept the idea of the opposition on the mechanism of the Arab initiative. Those who adopt this optimistic assessment said that Hezbollah’s clinging to the same political stand and limiting it to revoking the government’s two decisions have motivated pushing the endeavors to accelerate the political operation. Some Arab sources said the loyalists have committed a big mistake through fighting the battle in the absence of US, Israeli or Arab interventions in order to achieve what the July war has failed to achieve.
- 2. Observers said that what proves this is Washington’s declaration about supporting the Qatari movement. Meanwhile, France expressed its disappointment at the political behavior of the loyalists and their collapse in the field, while Hezbollah acted as a rational opposition in drawing the political ceiling which is built on clinging to a balanced compromise in accordance with the Arab initiative. As-Safir paper quoted a French diplomatic source as saying that it is impossible to drag Hezbollah to a civil war and there is no power in the world that can disarm it and who can do this is welcome.
- 3. The political circles which expressed reserve about the optimistic tone of the reports and the available information said the US and Saudi fingers try to obstruct the agreement at Doaha’s conference. The axis of Cheney-Bandar will be defeated if the compromise succeeds, so it bets on exploding the conference through dealing with the resistance weaponry and obstructing discussing the unity government.
- 4. Press reports from ad-Doha said the house speaker and Walid Junblat have reached an understanding which will govern negotiations on the government of the 13 and the law of the minister Suleiman Franjiyeh, which he prepared when he was minister of interior before the assassination of al-Hariri.
- 5. The Syrian stand which supports the Arab initiative is based on the principle of adopting the Syrian reading of the Arab initiative, which focused on the necessity of achieving an understanding on the government and the elections law before the session for electing the consensus president. Foreign minister Walid al-Mouallem called his Qatari counterpart to announce Syria’s support for the initiative, while the political readings said that the statements of the Saudi foreign minister yesterday reflected the retreat of the tone of provocation and rejection of his previous statements.

Arab and International Press

Al-Riyadh said politicians in Lebanon seemed in the recent events like frogs that utter the voices of death, hatred and religious extremism.
Al-Bayan said in its editorial that the new equation on the Lebanese track resulted from an understanding between Lebanese ministers and the Arab officials.
Russia announced that a Syrian military delegation visits it to study some mechanisms of military work at the artillery academy in Saint Petersburg.
Kazem al-Musawe said in an article published in the Qatari paper al-Rayah that if the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan cost 3 trillion dollars what is the number concerning the lost Afghani and Iraqi fortunes.

Satellite Stations’ News

The Syrian satellite station said the Lebanese sides arrived in ad-Doha to start the dialogue wondering if the US president will explode the table in ad-Doha.

Lebanese Press

Al-Akhbar said Doha conference reflects a Qatari optimism and a Lebanese caution pointing out that the understanding between the house speaker and Jumblatt opens the way for solution.
Ad-Diyar said the Lebanese people told the politicians who headed for ad-Doha: if you don not agree don not return to Lebanon pointing out that Fouad al-Siniora cancelled his meeting with President Bush.
As-Safir said the Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Mouallem made yesterday a phone call with Qatari foreign minister to express Syria’s support for Doha’s conference.

Television Stations’ News in Lebanon

Al-Manar said the Lebanese anticipate the results of Doha’s conference which resulted from the government’s wrong political performance.
The NTV said the Lebanese officials headed for Doha but each side traveled on a different plane.
The NBN said the aspects of the civil disobedience were eliminated and Lebanese officials headed for Doha via the airport road.
The OTV said that many sides said the discussions in ad-Doha resemble the discussions that preceded at-Taif agreement.
The LBC wondered if Doha conference will be a new Taif?
The Future said Beirut started to heal its wounds after lifting the siege of the airport

Tendencies is a daily political watch newsletter about the Near East, issued by New Orient News agency in Beirut, Lebanon. It is available on Voltairenet.org 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.