Saudi Crown Prince MBS: A Partner We (No One) Can’t Depend On

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

A Partner We Can’t Depend On

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia long ago revealed his true character in impulsive and vicious actions.

Susan E. Rice

By Susan E. Rice

Ms. Rice was the national security adviser during President Barack Obama’s second term.

Image
A Yemeni child at the graves of schoolboys who were killed when their bus was hit by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in August. Credit  France Press — Getty Images

The crisis in United States-Saudi relations precipitated by the brazen murder of Jamal Khashoggi raises a critical question that the Trump administration plainly wants to avoid: Can the United States continue to cooperate with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The young prince’s almost certain culpability in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing underscores his extreme recklessness and immorality, while exposing him as a dangerous and unreliable partner for the United States.

No astute observer should be surprised to discover that Prince Mohammed is capable of such action. Yes, we may be shocked by how heinous Mr. Khashoggi’s murder was, and by how blatant the many lies told by the Saudis have been. Of course, many Americans, from Silicon Valley to the editorial pages of our leading papers, were snowed by the crown prince’s promises of reform and the deft marketing of his leadership. But, for those willing to see past his charm offensive, Prince Mohammed had already revealed his true character through numerous impulsive and vicious actions.

The deadliest exhibit is the war in Yemen, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and killed countless civilians, including children, because the Saudis arrogantly refuse to employ responsible targeting techniques. It has been a Prince Mohammed operation from the start.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen shares direct responsibility, along with the Houthi rebels and Iran, for the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, while the United States has continued shamelessly to provide support to their bloody war. Although the Obama administration initiated support to the coalition to help defend Saudi territory from Houthi incursions, it finally moved to curtail arms sales when the aims of the war expanded and the constraints we tried to impose were flouted.

At home, the crown prince has locked up civil society activists. He imprisoned for months hundreds of members of the royal family and other influential people in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton and demanded they surrender huge sums of money and valuable assets in exchange for release. He has forced out rivals and close relatives, including former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. And, as the Khashoggi case suggests, he has undertaken a global purge of Saudi dissidents wherever they reside.

The crown prince kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister and denied it. He imposed a spiteful, full-blown blockade on neighboring Qatar, another important American partner, and has sought to goad the United States into conflict with Iran. Stung by two mildly critical tweets by the Canadian foreign minister, Prince Mohammed abruptly downgraded diplomatic ties with Ottawa, yanked 7,000 Saudi students out of Canadian universities and limited transport and trade links.

Image
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Credit Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As this litany of lunacy shows, Prince Mohammed is not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable or rational partner of the United States and our allies. If we fail to punish him directly and target only those around him, the crown prince will be further emboldened to take extreme actions. If we do punish him, which we must, Prince Mohammed, petulant and proud, is equally likely to behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners. Either way, the Trump administration must assume that Prince Mohammed will continue to drive his country and our bilateral relationship over the proverbial cliff.

Unfortunately, King Salman seems unwilling or unable to rein in his rogue son. With critics cowed into submission and rivals pushed aside, there is no obvious alternative-in-waiting who might provide Saudi Arabia with sober, responsible leadership.

Absent a change at the top, we should brace ourselves for a future in which Saudi Arabia is less stable and more difficult to govern. In this scenario, the potential risks to American security and economic interests would be grave. The United States was wrong to hitch our wagon to Prince Mohammed, but we would be even more foolish to continue to do so.

Looking ahead, Washington must act to mitigate the risks to our own interests. We should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammed continues to wield unlimited power. It should be United States policy, in conjunction with our allies, to sideline the crown prince in order to increase pressure on the royal family to find a steadier replacement.

We should start by leading the push for an impartial international investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. We must be consistent and public in our judgment that the United States believes the killing could not have occurred without Prince Mohammed’s blessing or, more likely, his order.

Next, we should terminate all military support for the misbegotten Yemen campaign and pressure the Saudis to reach a negotiated settlement. We should immediately suspend all American arms sales to the kingdom and conduct a careful, comprehensive review of any future deliveries, halting all but those we determine, in close consultation with Congress, advance United States national security interests.

Finally, we should stop following Prince Mohammed down blind alleys and bring a healthy skepticism to our dealings with him, particularly any that require relying on his word or judgment.

We need to stop privileging Jared Kushner’s relationship with the crown prince, and finally fill the vacant ambassadorship to the kingdom, to engage with a broader range of senior Saudi officials. President Trump’s inexplicable infatuation with Prince Mohammed must end, and he must recalibrate American policy so that it serves our national interests — not his personal interests or those of the crown prince.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, is a contributing opinion writer. @AmbassadorRice

READ 167 COMMENTS

Lebanon Stresses Compliance With US Measures Against Hezbollah

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Stresses Compliance With US Measures Against Hezbollah

Friday, 28 September, 2018 – 09:45
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh delivers a speech during the plenary session of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Tokyo. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
Beirut – Nazeer Rida
The new US draft-law on Hezbollah is moving to an advanced stage involving media funders, economic and social institutions linked to the group, in what seems to be “an attempt to isolate the supporters of the party, which is facing increased financial pressure,” according to experts.

The new draft-law imposes sanctions on the supporters of “Bayt al-Mal” and “Jihad Al-Bina”, which is involved in construction works, as well as the party’s media institutions, and includes advertisers who broadcast ads through Hezbollah’s channels.

While the bill seeks to “increase pressure on banks dealing with the group,” Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday in response to a question about his willingness to enforce the sanctions: “We, as the central bank, issued circulars a while ago, and there aren’t new notices.” He explained and these circulars make Lebanon comply with the laws of countries that have currency or banks dealings with it.

He pointed out in a radio interview that those circulars were sufficient enough whatever the new sanctions, adding that there was nothing new on this subject.

The US House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass a bill calling for new and harsh sanctions against Hezbollah. The new sanctions aim to limit the party’s ability to raise funds and recruit members, as well as increase pressure on the banks that deal with the group and the countries that support it, especially Iran. The sanctions also prohibit anyone who supports the party materially and in other means from entering the United States.

According to Dr. Sami Nader, Director of Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs (LISA), the new bill shows that the circle of sanctions is widening, since it started with Hezbollah’s officials, then reached the entities associated with the party, and today includes the supporters of the group’s institutions.

 

 

MWL, Algerian Islamic Council Partner to Confront Extremism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

MWL, Algerian Islamic Council Partner to Confront Extremism

Tuesday, 25 September, 2018 – 11:15
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi receives MWL Chief Dr. Mohamed Al-Issa’s , Asharq AL-Awsat
Algeria, Beirut- Boualam Ghimrasah and Asharq Al Awsat
Religious authorities in Algeria partnered with the Muslim World League for organizing awareness campaigns against extremism in a number of Arab countries facing the threat of religious radicalism.

The partnership was struck during the MWL Chief Dr. Mohamed Al-Issa’s visit to Algeria, which lasted two days.

During his stay, Issa met Algeria’s Head of the Supreme Islamic Council Bouabdallah Gholamallah and other officials from both the country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs Endowments and Ministry of Interior.

“The agreement between the two sides is aimed at using well-known Imams to carry out this mission, especially in the Sahel countries, such as Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where extremist groups are active and seek to recruit youth into armed action,” an insider source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The source said that Issa’s meetings tackled societies facing religious extremism, and praised the “policy for reconciliation” in Algeria, which swayed thousands of extremists into peaceful means of living.

The agreement encourages scholars and intellectuals to “renew religious discourse and propagate moderation, values of tolerance and dialogue, as well as to discuss plans to combat extremism and terrorism.”

The MWL has worldwide influence, so Algeria is looking forward to cooperating with it on exposing baseless arguments against Islam and Muslims, Gholamallah was quoted as saying.

For his part, Al-Issa said that the agreement signed with the Supreme Islamic Council framed the cooperation that will be carried out by both bodies with the main objective being to clarify the real face of Islam as a religion and abolish extremism and terrorist ideologies.

Most recently, Issa met with religious leaders on an official visit to Lebanon.

He started his visit by meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdullatif Durian, later meeting with Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi.

During meetings, the secretary-general stressed the importance of dialogue in order to promote common values based on love, respect and cooperation, and to confront hatred.

He visited Elias Audi, Metropolitan bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. They discussed bilateral cooperation and coordination.

Issa also met with the president of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan.

He also met with Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Al-Aql Naim Hassan, with Bishop Boulos Matar, Chaldean Bishop Michel Kasarji and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Krikor Bedros.

Israel: Truth, Knowledge, History Of God’s Country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Israel

Introduction Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. The territories Israel occupied since the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless otherwise noted. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives and Syria to achieve a permanent settlement. Israel and Palestinian officials signed on 13 September 1993 a Declaration of Principles (also known as the “Oslo Accords”) guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. In addition, on 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982. In April 2003, US President BUSH, working in conjunction with the EU, UN, and Russia – the “Quartet” – took the lead in laying out a road map to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005, based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. However, progress toward a permanent status agreement was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence between September 2003 and February 2005. An Israeli-Palestinian agreement reached at Sharm al-Sheikh in February 2005, along with an internally-brokered Palestinian ceasefire, significantly reduced the violence. In the summer of 2005, Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, evacuating settlers and its military while retaining control over most points of entry into the Gaza Strip. The election of HAMAS in January 2006 to head the Palestinian Legislative Council froze relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Ehud OLMERT became prime minister in March 2006; following an Israeli military operation in Gaza in June-July 2006 and a 34-day conflict with Hizballah in Lebanon in June-August 2006, he shelved plans to unilaterally evacuate from most of the West Bank. OLMERT in June 2007 resumed talks with the PA after HAMAS seized control of the Gaza Strip and PA President Mahmoud ABBAS formed a new government without HAMAS.
History Early roots

The Land of Israel, known in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael, has been sacred to the Jewish people since the time of the biblical patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible has placed this period in the early 2nd millennium BCE.[24] According to the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the Jews as their homeland,[25][26] and the sites holiest to Judaism are located there. Around the 11th century BCE, the first of a series of Jewish kingdoms and states established rule over the region; these Jewish kingdoms and states ruled intermittently for the following one thousand years.[27]

Between the time of the Jewish kingdoms and the 7th-century Muslim conquests, the Land of Israel fell under Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Sassanian, and Byzantine rule.[28] Jewish presence in the region dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE and the resultant large-scale expulsion of Jews. Nevertheless, a continuous Jewish presence in Palestine was maintained. Although the main Jewish population shifted from the Judea region to the Galilee;[29] the Mishnah and part of the Talmud, among Judaism’s most important religious texts, were composed in Israel during this period.[30] The Land of Israel was captured from the Byzantine Empire around 636 CE during the initial Muslim conquests. Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads,[31] Abbasids,[32] and Crusaders over the next six centuries, before falling in the hands of the Mamluk Sultanate, in 1260. In 1516, the Land of Israel became a part of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the region until the 20th century.[33]

Zionism and the British Mandate

Jews living in the Diaspora have long aspired to return to Zion and the Land of Israel.[34] That hope and yearning was articulated in the Bible[35] and is a central theme in the Jewish prayer book. Beginning in the twelfth century, a small but steady stream of Jews began to leave Europe to settle in the Holy Land, increasing in numbers after Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.[36] During the 16th century large communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities, and in the second half of the 18th century, entire Hasidic communities from eastern Europe settled in the Holy Land.

The first large wave of modern immigration, known as the First Aliyah (Hebrew: עלייה), began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe.[38] While the Zionist movement already existed in theory, Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism,[39] a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane.[40] In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), offering his vision of a future state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.

The Second Aliyah (1904–1914), began after the Kishinev pogrom. Some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine.[38] Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews,[42] but those in the Second Aliyah included socialist pioneers who established the kibbutz movement.[43] During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”[44] The Jewish Legion, a group of battalions composed primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Israel. Arab opposition to the plan led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of the Jewish defense organization known as the Haganah, from which the Irgun and Lehi split off.

In 1922, the League of Nations granted Great Britain a mandate over Palestine for the express purpose of “placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home”.[46] The populations of the Ottoman districts in the area at this time were predominantly Muslim Arabs, while the largest urban area in the region, Jerusalem, was predominantly Jewish.

Jewish immigration continued with the Third Aliyah (1919–1923) and Fourth Aliyah (1924–1929), which together brought 100,000 Jews to Palestine.[38] In the wake of the Jaffa riots in the early days of the Mandate, the British restricted Jewish immigration and territory slated for the Jewish state was allocated to Transjordan.[48] The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews. This influx resulted in the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 and led the British to cap immigration with the White Paper of 1939. With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine.[38] By the end of World War II, Jews accounted for 33% of the population of Palestine, up from 11% in 1922.[49][50]

Independence and first years

After 1945 Britain became embroiled in an increasingly violent conflict with the Jews[51]. In 1947, the British government withdrew from commitment to the Mandate of Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.[52] The newly-created United Nations approved the UN Partition Plan (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181) on November 29, 1947, dividing the country into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Jerusalem was to be designated an international city – a corpus separatum – administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status.[53] The Jewish community accepted the plan,[54] but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee rejected it.

Regardless, the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, one day before the expiry of the British Mandate for Palestine.[56] Not long after, five Arab countries – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – attacked Israel, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[56] After almost a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were instituted. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949.[57] During the course of the hostilities, 711,000 Arabs, according to UN estimates, fled from Israel.[58] The fate of the Palestinian refugees today is a major point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[59][60]

In the early years of the state, the Labor Zionist movement led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics.[61][62] These years were marked by mass immigration of Holocaust survivors and an influx of Jews persecuted in Arab lands. The population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958.[63] Most arrived as refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma’abarot. By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in these tent cities. The need to solve the crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany that triggered mass protests by Jews angered at the idea of Israel “doing business” with Germany.

During the 1950s, Israel was frequently attacked by Arab fedayeen, mainly from the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip.[65] In 1956, Israel joined a secret alliance with Great Britain and France aimed at recapturing the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians had nationalized (see the Suez Crisis). Despite capturing the Sinai Peninsula, Israel was forced to retreat due to pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union in return for guarantees of Israeli shipping rights in the Red Sea and the Canal.

At the start of the following decade, Israel captured Adolf Eichmann, an implementer of the Final Solution hiding in Argentina, and brought him to trial.[67] The trial had a major impact on public awareness of the Holocaust[68] and to date Eichmann remains the only person sentenced to death by Israeli courts.

Conflicts and peace treaties

In 1967, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli for a pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, during which it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights.[70] The 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories. Jerusalem’s boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980, reaffirmed this measure and reignited international controversy over the status of Jerusalem.

In the early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which those responsible for the Munich massacre were tracked down and assassinated.[71] On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. The war ended on October 26 with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but suffering great losses.[72] An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin’s Likud party took control from the Labor Party.[73] Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state.[74] In the two years that followed, Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.[75] Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians across the Green Line, a plan which was never implemented.

In 1982, Israel intervened in the Lebanese Civil War to destroy the bases from which the Palestine Liberation Organization launched attacks and missiles at northern Israel. That move developed into the First Lebanon War.[76] Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone until 2000. The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule,[77] broke out in 1987 with waves of violence occurring in the occupied territories. Over the following six years, more than a thousand people were killed in the ensuing violence, much of which was internal Palestinian violence.[78] During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO and many Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi missile attacks against Israel.

In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party promoted compromise with Israel’s neighbors.[81][82] The following year, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, on behalf of Israel and the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to self-govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in return for recognition of Israel’s right to exist and an end to terrorism.[83] In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.[84] Public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by a wave of attacks from Palestinians. The November 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a far-right-wing Jew, as he left a peace rally, shocked the country. At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron[85] and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority.

Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David Summit. During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it.[87] After the collapse of the talks, Palestinians began the Second Intifada.

Ariel Sharon soon after became the new prime minister in a 2001 special election. During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier.[88] In January 2006, after Ariel Sharon suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke which left him in a coma, the powers of office were transferred to Ehud Olmert. The kidnappings of Israeli soldiers by Hamas and Hezbollah and the shelling of settlements on Israel’s northern border led to a five-week war, known in Israel as the Second Lebanon War. The conflict was brought to end by a ceasefire brokered by the United Nations. After the war, Israel’s Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, resigned.

On November 27, 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to begin negotiations on all issues, and to make every effort reach an agreement by the end of 2008.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon
Geographic coordinates: 31 30 N, 34 45 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 20,770 sq km
land: 20,330 sq km
water: 440 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 1,017 km
border countries: Egypt 266 km, Gaza Strip 51 km, Jordan 238 km, Lebanon 79 km, Syria 76 km, West Bank 307 km
Coastline: 273 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
Climate: temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas
Terrain: Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m
Natural resources: timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand
Land use: arable land: 15.45%
permanent crops: 3.88%
other: 80.67% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,940 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 1.7 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.05 cu km/yr (31%/7%/62%)
per capita: 305 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment – current issues: limited arable land and natural fresh water resources pose serious constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial and domestic waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: there are 242 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 0 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 2005 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source
Politics Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic country with universal suffrage.[2] The President of Israel is the head of state, but his duties are largely ceremonial.[101] A Parliament Member supported by a majority in parliament becomes the Prime Minister, usually the chairman of the largest party. The Prime Minister is the head of government and head of the Cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership in the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties.[103] Parliamentary elections are held every four years, but the Knesset can dissolve the government at any time by a no-confidence vote. The Basic Laws of Israel function as an unwritten constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws.

Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel’s six districts. The third and highest tier in Israel is the Supreme Court, seated in Jerusalem. It serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against decisions of state authorities.[105][106] Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court as it fears the court would be biased against it due to political pressure.[107] Israel’s legal system combines English common law, civil law, and Jewish law.[2] It is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent) and is an adversarial system, where the parties in the suit bring evidence before the court. Court cases are decided by professional judges rather than juries.[105] Marriage and divorce are under the jurisdiction of the religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian. A committee of Knesset members, Supreme Court justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges.

The Israeli Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties. Israel is the only country in the region ranked “Free” by Freedom House based on the level of civil and political rights; the “Israeli Occupied Territories/Palestinian Authority” was ranked “Not Free.”[109] Similarly, Reporters Without Borders rated Israel 50th out of 168 countries in terms of freedom of the press and highest among Southwest Asian countries.[110] Nevertheless, groups such as Amnesty International[111] and Human Rights Watch[112] have often disapproved of Israel’s human rights record in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel’s civil liberties also allow for self-criticism, from groups such as B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.[113] Israel’s system of socialized medicine, which guarantees equal health care to all residents of the country, was anchored in law in 1995.

Israel is located in the region of the world (i.e.,Southwest Asia including North Africa) that is the ” . . . least hospitable to democracy. Of the 19 states in this broad region, only 2 Israel and Turkey are democratic (though in Turkey the military still retains a veto on many important issues).”

People Population: 6,426,679
note: includes about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.1% (male 858,246/female 818,690)
15-64 years: 64.2% (male 2,076,649/female 2,046,343)
65 years and over: 9.8% (male 269,483/female 357,268) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 29.9 years
male: 29.1 years
female: 30.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.154% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 17.71 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 6.17 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.048 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.015 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.754 male(s)/female
total population: 0.994 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.75 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.45 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.02 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.59 years
male: 77.44 years
female: 81.85 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.38 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 3,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 100 (2001 est.)
Nationality: noun: Israeli(s)
adjective: Israeli
Ethnic groups: Jewish 76.4% (of which Israel-born 67.1%, Europe/America-born 22.6%, Africa-born 5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%), non-Jewish 23.6% (mostly Arab) (2004)
Religions: Jewish 76.4%, Muslim 16%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9% (2004)
Languages: Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.1%
male: 98.5%
female: 95.9%

Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians’ Frantic Tweeting

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians’ Frantic Tweeting

Wednesday, 19 September, 2018 – 09:15
Beirut – Sanaa el-Jack
Taking to Twitter in service of their own ends, Lebanese politicians use the platform to expose secrets previously kept exclusive to political echelons. But unlike the average citizen, Twitter-active politicians enjoy immunity.

Maj. Gen. Jamil al-Sayyid said that posting on Twitter was a simple daily habit he practiced with no expectations whatsoever for his account to pick up a following of over 300,000.

“In the past, I was obsessed with the notion of expression, and made frequent contacts with televisions and newspapers to convey my stances,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“But with Twitter, it’s like I have my own radio podcast, television broadcast and a newspaper right at home. It takes one sentence to make an impact,” he added.

In another muscle flexing Twitter spat, Environment Minister Tarek Khatib scolds Lebanese journalist Charles Ayoub over the latter’s prodding around affairs of the caretaker Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil.

In an Arabic tweet, Khatib tells Ayoub that his “harassment of great warriors will not take him any higher, and that Gebran Bassil will not stoop down to his level and grant him the privilege of response.”

“You need a mental hospital,” Khatib slams Ayoub.

Sociology Professor Dr. Talal Atrissi deplored double standards practiced in Lebanon that see to politicians getting off scot-free with blasting rivals, while the average citizen is dragged into investigations.

A politician posts whatever comes to his mind on Twitter with minimal accountability.

Unlike interviews and debates that are moderated by journalists, social media does not constrain the politician, Atrissi criticized.

“The Lebanese see Twitter as an escape, and simply don’t care about filtering what they say because they do not personally know the reader or responder,” he added.

“But if we assume that politicians are leaders and a role model for the public, then hearing an official cursing and using denigrate language makes way for others doing the same,” Atrissi said on the poorly, at times rudely, phrased tweets.

Atrissi remarked that a politician is responsible whenever he or she speaks, explaining that an elected representative is not an ordinary person that can act freely and in an unbalanced manner.

On social media, Lebanese politicians have not been shy in expressing hostility, brazenly lambasting their rivals.

“The issue with Lebanese behavior is facing each other edgily and aggressively on Twitter– as if there is hostility harbored against anyone who is not me,” Atrissi added.

“We need a lot of time to change this culture of resentment, through deliberate steps that contribute to eliminating provocation.”

Jordan: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Middle-Eastern Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Jordan

Introduction Following World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the UK received a mandate to govern much of the Middle East. Britain separated out a semi-autonomous region of Transjordan from Palestine in the early 1920s, and the area gained its independence in 1946; it adopted the name of Jordan in 1950. The country’s long-time ruler was King HUSSEIN (1953-99). A pragmatic leader, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population, despite several wars and coup attempts. In 1989 he reinstituted parliamentary elections and gradual political liberalization; in 1994 he signed a peace treaty with Israel. King ABDALLAH II, the son of King HUSSEIN, assumed the throne following his father’s death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and undertaken an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2000, and began to participate in the European Free Trade Association in 2001. Municipal elections were held in July 2007 under a system in which 20% of seats in all municipal councils were reserved by quota for women. Parliamentary elections were held in November 2007 and saw independent pro-government candidates win the vast majority of seats. In November 2007, King Abdallah instructed his new prime minister to focus on socioeconomic reform, developing a healthcare and housing network for civilians and military personnel, and improving the educational system.
History Beginnings

With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations created the French Mandate of Syria and British Mandate Palestine. Approximately 90% of the British Mandate of Palestine was east of the Jordan river and was known as “Transjordan”. In 1921, the British gave semi-autonomous control of Transjordan to the future King Abdullah I of Jordan, of the Hashemite family. Abdullah I continued to rule until a Palestinian Arab assassinated him in 1951 on the steps of the Mosque of Omar. At first he ruled “Transjordan”, under British supervision until after World War II. In 1946, the British requested that the United Nations approve an end to British Mandate rule in Transjordan. Following this approval, the Jordanian Parliament proclaimed King Abdullah as the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank, which had been under its control since the armistice that followed the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom (de facto in the case of East Jerusalem).

In 1965, there was an exchange of land between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Jordan gave up a relatively large area of inland desert in return for a small piece of sea-shore near Aqaba.

Jordan signed a mutual defence pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated in the June 1967 war against Israel along with Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Jordan lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel (the western sector having been under Israeli control). In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

Refugees and Black September / AKA White September

The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians, especially from the West Bank, living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population — 700,000 in 1966 — grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) in Jordan. The fedayeen were targeted by King’s (Hussien) armed forces, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. The battle in which Palestinian fighters from various Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) groups were expelled from Jordan is commonly known as Black September, it is also known as white September to many.

The heaviest fighting occurred in northern Jordan and Amman. The Syrian army battled the Jordanian army in Amman and other urban areas. The global media portrayed King Hussein as a corrupt King slaughtering the Palestinian refugees. Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force invaded northern Jordan to support the fedayeen but subsequently retreated. It is said by some people, such as Ahmed Jibril, that King Hussein asked for help from Israel,[1] then Israel threatened that it would invade Jordan if Syria intervened. By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. Sporadic violence continued, however, until Jordanian forces led by Habis Al-Majali with the help of the Iraqi forces (who had bases in Jordan after the war of 1967),[1] won a decisive victory over the fedayeen on July 1971, expelling them from the country.

At the Rabat summit conference in 1974, Jordan agreed, along with the rest of the Arab League, that the PLO was the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, thereby relinquishing to that organization its role as representative of the West Bank.

Post Black September and Peace Treaty

Fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf War of 1990–91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian fedayeen representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel at the Madrid Conference, sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a declaration to that effect on July 25, 1994 (see Washington Declaration). As a result, an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty was concluded on October 26, 1994. Following the outbreak of Israel-Palestinian Authority fighting in September 2000, the Jordanian government offered its good offices to both parties. Jordan has since sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors.

Recent events

On November 9, 2005 Jordan experienced three simultaneous bombings at hotels in Amman. At least 57 people died and 115 were wounded. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq”, a group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a native Jordanian, claimed responsibility.

Geography Location: Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates: 31 00 N, 36 00 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 92,300 sq km
land: 91,971 sq km
water: 329 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Indiana
Land boundaries: total: 1,635 km
border countries: Iraq 181 km, Israel 238 km, Saudi Arabia 744 km, Syria 375 km, West Bank 97 km
Coastline: 26 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
Climate: mostly arid desert; rainy season in west (November to April)
Terrain: mostly desert plateau in east, highland area in west; Great Rift Valley separates East and West Banks of the Jordan River
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Jabal Ram 1,734 m
Natural resources: phosphates, potash, shale oil
Land use: arable land: 3.32%
permanent crops: 1.18%
other: 95.5% (2005)
Irrigated land: 750 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 0.9 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.01 cu km/yr (21%/4%/75%)
per capita: 177 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment – current issues: limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba and as the Arab country that shares the longest border with Israel and the occupied West Bank
People Population: 6,053,193 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 33% (male 1,018,934/female 977,645)
15-64 years: 63% (male 2,037,550/female 1,777,361)
65 years and over: 4% (male 117,279/female 124,424) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 23.5 years
male: 24.1 years
female: 22.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.412% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 20.69 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 2.68 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 6.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.042 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.146 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.943 male(s)/female
total population: 1.102 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 16.16 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.33 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.55 years
male: 76.04 years
female: 81.22 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.55 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 600 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 500 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Jordanian(s)
adjective: Jordanian
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%
Religions: Sunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shi’a Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)
Languages: Arabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.9%
male: 95.1%
female: 84.7%

Trump eliminated US funding for UNRWA and the US role as Mideast peacemaker

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

In one move, Trump eliminated US funding for UNRWA and the US role as Mideast peacemaker

Hady Amr   Frid

Editor’s Note:Through President Trump’s announcement that his administration would no longer fund UNRWA, America has further written itself out of the process of peacemaking in the Middle East, argues Hady Amr. Trump has sent an unmistakable message to the Palestinian people: He callously disregards their most basic needs. This post is adapted from a piece originally published on The Hill.

As if to boast, in a call to mark the Jewish New Year, President Trump told American Jewish leaders: “I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians.” Trump added he told the Palestinians, “We’re not paying until you make a deal.” On the face of it, such an approach may seem like a typical Trump negotiating tactic, but the decision is so misguided that in addition to having dire immediate consequences, it will haunt the United States for years to come.

Author

Trump was referring to the State Department’s recent abrupt announcement that his administration would no longer fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), reversing a policy of support by every American president—Republican and Democrat—since it was created about 70 years ago as a cornerstone of America’s support for stability in the Middle East and flagship of our values to provide for the most vulnerable.

Indeed, UNRWA is so in-sync with our values that American citizens voluntarily give millions of dollars, collectively, to UNRWA each year via U.S. 501c(3) organizations—more than some whole countries.

But should we really be surprised? We already know that Trump’s actions have been antithetical to refugees at home and abroad, and we also know that in a global economy of over $100 trillion dollars, a meager $300 million cut by the United States should be able to be covered by another country.

That’s true on both counts, but in that truth lies the problem: the problem for America, for Palestinians, and even for Israelis. What is also true is that Trump’s action is based on such a fundamentally flawed misunderstanding of the situation that it may have the opposite of its intended effect.

But before we get to that, let’s look at the immediate impact: UNRWA, which provides vital life-saving services, health care and education to stateless refugees in the Middle East, is now scrambling for funds.

These funds go toward a modern, secular education for 500,000 boys and girls; vaccinations and health clinics that provide services to over three million refugees and a basic level of dignity for millions who otherwise would lead lives of despair.

While some donors like Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are stepping in to offset part of what the United States is cutting, UNRWA will still likely have to reduce services. Those service reductions hurt people who are not even citizens of any nation.

Related Books

So when UNRWA cuts back services in the impoverished refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza, what forces on the ground will fill the void? Whoever it is, they are unlikely to be America’s friends. Even the Israeli military knows that cutting funding for basic services to refugees are a recipe for disaster for Israel.

Nowhere are the UNRWA cuts more acute than in the Gaza Strip, where about two million souls inhabit a tiny area twice the size of Washington, DC that few can gain permission to leave. There, UNRWA provides services to 1.3 million people, spending about 40 percent of its overall budget.

Roughly 262,000 boys and girls are enrolled in 267 UNRWA schools there. Twenty-two health clinics provide for millions of patient visits a year. It is unlikely that any agency could provide significantly better quality services for less cost.

Through these moves, America has further written itself out of the process of peacemaking in the Middle East. Trump has sent an unmistakable message to the Palestinian people: He callously disregards their most basic needs.

Trump has also sent that powerful message to their friends and allies across the Middle East and the rest of the world. Trump’s message will engender the opposite of goodwill and will further erode America’s moral leadership in the Middle East.

Indeed, the long-term problem is more profound, and it’s essential to understand because the Trump administration seeks to redefine what it means to be a Palestinian refugee, which in turn could have implications for refugees worldwide.

Underlying the Trump administration’s cuts to UNRWA is the false premise that Palestinian refugees derive their refugee status from UNRWA. They don’t. They derive it from international law. UNRWA’s role is simply to provide social services to these stateless refugees—not determine who is and who isn’t a refugee under international law.

Also underlying Trump’s attack on UNRWA is the false premise that other refugee populations don’t transfer their refugee status to their children. Wrong again. International law conveys refugee status to children of other refugee populations until permanent homes can be found. People from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, and Somalia are but a number of the populations where refugee status has been conveyed to descendants.

Finally, underlying Trump’s decision is the false premise that cutting funds to UNRWA and to development projects in the West Bank and Gaza will somehow pressure the Palestinian Authority. Again, it won’t; others will fill the void. Anyhow, Trump is so unpopular in the West Bank and Gaza that any pressure he applies to the Palestinian leadership only makes them look stronger.

At its core, the century-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about two fundamental things: land and people. In particular, it’s about which group of people gets to live on which part of the land. Although Jews and Arabs are about of equal number in the Holy Land, in the past decades, Israel has had full control of roughly 90 percent of the land. The Palestinians have significant—but not full—control of around 5 percent. And around 5 percent is shared control.

What Trump’s actions seem to seek to achieve is to somehow convince the millions of Palestinian refugees to give up their deep and abiding emotional attachment to their homeland. Their homeland is the Holy Land, and their attachment to it won’t just vanish.

Whatever final status agreement is one day achieved, Trump need look no further than the Jewish people’s 2,000-year longing to return to understand that a few meager decades will not diminish the longing of Palestinian refugees to return.

Trump also need look no further than out his own window to the White House lawn, where in September 1993 an agreement was signed between Israeli and Palestinian leaders that many, including myself, passionately hoped would help channel Jewish and Palestinian mutual aspirations for peace, security, sovereignty and prosperity into a lasting agreement.

Although those objectives have not yet been achieved, failing to recognize one group’s attachment to the land—or worse seeking to obliterate their emotional connection—will only serve the opposite of the cause of peace and profoundly damage America in the process.

As with Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, American redemption may require a reversal by a future president. Meanwhile, perhaps direct donations by U.S. citizens can help recuperate a shred of our American dignity when it comes to Mideast peacemaking.

Lebanon: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This War Torn Middle-Eastern Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Lebanon

Introduction Following the capture of Syria from the Ottoman Empire by Anglo-French forces in 1918, France received a mandate over this territory and separated out a region of Lebanon in 1920. France granted this area independence in 1943. A lengthy civil war (1975-1990) devastated the country, but Lebanon has since made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions. Under the Ta’if Accord – the blueprint for national reconciliation – the Lebanese established a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a greater voice in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, Lebanon has conducted several successful elections, most militias have been disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended authority over about two-thirds of the country. Hizballah, a radical Shi’a organization listed by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, retains its weapons. During Lebanon’s civil war, the Arab League legitimized in the Ta’if Accord Syria’s troop deployment, numbering about 16,000 based mainly east of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley. Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 and the passage in October 2004 of UNSCR 1559 – a resolution calling for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and end its interference in Lebanese affairs – encouraged some Lebanese groups to demand that Syria withdraw its forces as well. The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq HARIRI and 20 others in February 2005 led to massive demonstrations in Beirut against the Syrian presence (“the Cedar Revolution”), and Syria withdrew the remainder of its military forces in April 2005. In May-June 2005, Lebanon held its first legislative elections since the end of the civil war free of foreign interference, handing a majority to the bloc led by Saad HARIRI, the slain prime minister’s son. Lebanon continues to be plagued by violence – Hizballah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 leading to a 34-day conflict with Israel. The LAF in May-September 2007 battled Sunni extremist group Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee camp; and the country has witnessed a string of politically motivated assassinations since the death of Rafiq HARIRI. Lebanese politicians in November 2007 were unable to agree on a successor to Emile LAHUD when he stepped down as president, creating a political vacuum.
History Ancient history

The earliest known settlements in Lebanon date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists have discovered in Byblos, which is considered to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world,[15] remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars which are evidence of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago. [5]

Lebanon was the homeland of the Phoenicians, a seafaring people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Cyrus the Great. After two centuries of Persian rule, Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great attacked and burned Tyre, the most prominent Phoenician city. Throughout the subsequent centuries leading up to recent times, the country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Persian, Assyrian, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, and Ottoman.

French mandate and independence

Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, in a region known as Greater Syria,[17] until 1918 when the area became a part of the French Mandate of Syria following World War I. On September 1, 1920, France formed the State of Greater Lebanon as one of several ethnic enclaves within Syria.[18] Lebanon was a largely Christian (mainly Maronite) enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims and Druzes. On September 1, 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. The Republic was afterward a separate entity from Syria but still administered under the French Mandate of Syria. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany.[19] General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of the nation. The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.

After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under various political pressures from both inside and outside Lebanon, de Gaulle decided to recognize the independence of Lebanon. On November 26, 1941 General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on November 8, 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison. In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on November 22, 1943 and accepted the independence of Lebanon.

The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon’s unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Christian and its prime minister be Muslim.

Lebanon’s history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a civil conflict in 1958) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut’s position as a regional center for finance and trade.

1948 Arab-Israeli war

Five years after gaining independence, Lebanon reluctantly joined the Arab League but never invaded Israel[20] during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It took over logistical support of the Arab Liberation Army after it found itself cut off from its bases in Syria while going on an attack on the newly-proclaimed Jewish State.[20] After the defeat of the Arab Liberation Army in Operation Hiram,[21] Lebanon accepted an armistice with Israel on March 23, 1949. Approximately 100,000 Palestinian refugees were living in Lebanon in 1949 as a result of the creation of Israel and the subsequent war. The Lebanese-Israeli border remained closed, but quiet, until after the Six Day War in 1967.

Civil war and beyond

In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War lasted fifteen years, devastating the country’s economy, and resulting in the massive loss of human life and property. It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed and another 200,000 maimed.[23] The war ended in 1990 with the signing of the Taif Agreement and parts of Lebanon were left in ruins.

During the civil war, the Palestine Liberation Organization used Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel. Lebanon was twice invaded and occupied by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1978 and 1982,[25] the PLO expelled in the second invasion. Israel remained in control of Southern Lebanon until 2000, when there was a general decision, led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to withdraw due to continuous guerrilla attacks executed by Hezbollah militants and a belief that Hezbollah activity would diminish and dissolve without the Israeli presence.[26] The UN determined that the withdrawal of Israeli troops beyond the blue line was in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425, although a border region called the Shebaa Farms is still disputed. Hezbollah declared that it would not stop its operations against Israel until this area was liberated.

Recent history

On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion near the Saint George Bay in Beirut. Leaders of the March 14 Alliance accused Syria of the attack[29] due to its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, and the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment extending pro-Syrian President Lahoud’s term in office. Others, namely the March 8 Alliance and Syrian officials, claimed that the assassination may have been executed by the Israeli Mossad in an attempt to destabilize the country.

This incident triggered a series of demonstrations, known as Cedar Revolution, that demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1595 on April 7, 2005, which called for an investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.[31] The findings of the investigation were officially published on October 20, 2005 in the Mehlis report.[32] Eventually, and under pressure from the international community, Syria began withdrawing its 15,000-strong army troops from Lebanon.[33] By April 26, 2005, all uniformed Syrian soldiers had already crossed the border back to Syria.[34] The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassination attempts that led to the loss of many prominent Lebanese figures.

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and that led to a conflict, known in Lebanon as July War, that lasted until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect on 14 August 2006.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria
Geographic coordinates: 33 50 N, 35 50 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 10,400 sq km
land: 10,230 sq km
water: 170 sq km
Area – comparative: about 0.7 times the size of Connecticut
Land boundaries: total: 454 km
border countries: Israel 79 km, Syria 375 km
Coastline: 225 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: Mediterranean; mild to cool, wet winters with hot, dry summers; Lebanon mountains experience heavy winter snows
Terrain: narrow coastal plain; El Beqaa (Bekaa Valley) separates Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Qurnat as Sawda’ 3,088 m
Natural resources: limestone, iron ore, salt, water-surplus state in a water-deficit region, arable land
Land use: arable land: 16.35%
permanent crops: 13.75%
other: 69.9% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,040 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 4.8 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.38 cu km/yr (33%/1%/67%)
per capita: 385 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: dust storms, sandstorms
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; air pollution in Beirut from vehicular traffic and the burning of industrial wastes; pollution of coastal waters from raw sewage and oil spills
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: Nahr el Litani is the only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary; rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, and ethnicity
Politics Lebanon is a parliamentary, democratic republic, which implements a special system known as confessionalism.[69] This system, allegedly meant to insure that sectarian conflict is kept at bay, attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of religious sects in the governing body. As such, high-ranking offices in are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Catholic Christian, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Deputy Prime Minister an Orthodox Christian.

This trend continues in the distribution of the 128 parliamentary seats, which are divided equally between Muslims and Christians. Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975-1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions.[72] According to the constitution, direct elections must be held for the parliament every four years, although for much of Lebanon’s recent history, civil war precluded the exercise of this right.

The parliament elects the president for a non-renewable six-year term. At the urging of the Syrian government, this constitutional rule has been bypassed by ad hoc amendment twice in recent history. Elias Hrawi’s term, which was due to end in 1995, was extended for three years. This procedure, denounced by pro-democracy campaigners, was repeated in 2004 to allow Émile Lahoud to remain in office until 2007.

The President appoints the Prime Minister on the nomination of the parliament (which is, in most cases, binding).Following consultations with the parliament and the President, the Prime Minister forms the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism.

Lebanon’s judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code. Juries are not used in trials. The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Lebanese law does not provide for Civil marriage (although it recognizes such marriages contracted abroad); efforts by former President Elias Hrawi to legalize civil marriage in the late 1990s floundered on objections mostly from Muslim clerics. Additionally, Lebanon has a system of military courts that also has jurisdiction over civilians for crimes of espionage, treason, and other crimes that are considered to be security-related. These military courts have been criticized by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International for “seriously fall[ing] short of international standards for fair trial” and having “very wide jurisdiction over civilians”.

After Rafic Hariri’s assassination on 14 February 2005, the country has seen turbulent political times, and it shaped the Cedar Revolution and the rise of the March 14 alliance which is made of: Lebanese Forces, Future Movement and the PSP.

People Population: 3,971,941 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26% (male 526,994/female 505,894)
15-64 years: 66.8% (male 1,275,021/female 1,380,131)
65 years and over: 7.1% (male 128,002/female 155,899) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 28.8 years
male: 27.6 years
female: 30 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.154% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.06 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 22.59 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 25.08 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.41 years
male: 70.91 years
female: 76.04 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.87 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 2,800 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Lebanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Lebanese
Ethnic groups: Arab 95%, Armenian 4%, other 1%
note: many Christian Lebanese do not identify themselves as Arab but rather as descendents of the ancient Canaanites and prefer to be called Phoenicians
Religions: Muslim 59.7% (Shi’a, Sunni, Druze, Isma’ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3%
note: 17 religious sects recognized
Languages: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 87.4%
male: 93.1%
female: 82.2%

Lebanese Economy Hammered by Political Crisis, Debt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanese Economy Hammered by Political Crisis, Debt

Friday, 24 August, 2018 – 09:45
A man counts Lebanese pounds at an exchange shop, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Ahmad Harb opened his perfume shop on the main street of Beirut’s commercial Hamra district 35 years ago, and his business has weathered security and political crises in this volatile country, including a civil war.

He says this year has been the worst he’s seen: sales dropped by 90 percent and after the landlord raised the rent, he was finally forced to close the shop and move to a smaller, less expensive location nearby, said an Associated Press report on Friday.

“There is no business. Nothing works in this country, everything is very expensive,” Harb said, standing woefully outside his now shuttered shop.

Nearly four months after Lebanon held its first general elections in nine years, politicians are still squabbling over the formation of a new government amid uncertainty over a long stagnating economy, struggling businesses and concerns over the currency.

Years of regional turmoil — worsened by an influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees since 2011 — are catching up with the tiny, corruption-plagued Arab country. Lebanon has the third highest debt rate in the world, currently standing at about $81 billion, or 152 percent of the gross domestic product. In the absence of a new government, Lebanon has been unable to access billions of dollars pledged by foreign donors for foreign investment in infrastructure and other projects, said the AP.

Meanwhile, many businesses are closing, some companies are laying off employees and even Lebanese living in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region have seen a drop in their business and income due to a drop in oil prices, translating into a decrease in remittances.

Amid this tight situation, many Lebanese who have cash are now spending less, fearing for the future. Residents complain they have to pay double for everything including private generators to deal with chronic electricity cuts and water trucks to cope with the dry summer months. Adding to the downward spin, the government earlier this year stopped awarding long-term housing loans with low interest rates because high demand has depleted money available.

Hardly a day passes without politicians warning that the worst is yet to come, raising fears among residents that the Lebanese pound, pegged at 1,500 to a dollar for the past two decades, might lose some of its value.

Harb wonders where he will get the money next month when his children return to school.

“The country is heading toward bankruptcy,” he said, referring to shops that have already closed down in Hamra Street, one of the top shopping districts in Beirut.

On a walk through downtown Beirut in August, when restaurants would normally be packed with expatriates and tourists, the depression is easy to spot. Some restaurants have closed while others offer 30 percent discounts. Some shops are offering up to 70 percent off, reported the AP.

Maamoun Sharaf, owner of a money exchange shop, said the delays in forming the Cabinet have had bad effects, but the situation had been bad even before that.

“This year the economy did not do well. Even our business dropped by 50 percent,” he said.

Political disagreements have led to a delay in the implementation of loans and grants pledged at the CEDRE economic conference in Paris held in April. International donors pledged $11 billion for Lebanon but the donors sought to ensure the money is well spent in the corruption-plagued country.

Despite the crisis, the state last year approved a salary scale for civil servants that will cost an extra $800 million annually. The government imposed new taxes to fund the new salary structure, increasing the burden on a population that has already been suffering under high taxes with no return in the form of stable services such as water and electricity. Indeed, daily electric outages are a common occurrence.

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has repeatedly released statements assuring people that the currency is stable.

Some Lebanese banks have been raising interest rates on the local currency for clients who agree to change US dollars to Lebanese pounds and put them in blocked accounts for a specific period of time. The move is backed by the Central Bank, which has been boosting its foreign currency reserves, reported the AP.

“There is a government paralysis in Lebanon but right now the Lebanese pound is safe. The Central Bank is trying to have dollars to boost its reserves in case of any economic crisis,” said economist Kamel Wazne.

He acknowledges, however, that the economy “is not well” and warns that state institutions and financial policies cannot be activated in the absence of a government.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who has lobbied Western governments for assistance, is bogged down with the details of forming a government and divisions among politicians over whether Lebanon should resume normal contacts with the Syrian regime.

Hariri’s pro-Syria opponents have been pressuring him, saying normal contact should be resumed to help boost exports from Lebanon through the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan, which was recaptured by the regime from opposition faction in July. Hariri is a harsh critic of the regime and is against having normal relations with its leader Bashar Assad, said the AP.

“The international community stood by Lebanon and what is needed now is for Lebanon to stand by Lebanon and to form a Cabinet quickly, because this delay negatively affects the economy,” said Wazne, who also referred to the debt that is expected to grow in 2018 by $5 billion due to a huge budget deficit.

Comments

Top Hamas official: Ceasefire talks with Israel in ‘final stretch’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Top Hamas official: Ceasefire talks with Israel in ‘final stretch’

Kahlil al-Hayya tells Lebanese TV Hamas wishes to reach a long-term accord with the Jewish state

Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)
Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)

Negotiations for a long-term ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas are in “the final stretch,” a senior member of the terror group said Friday.

Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV quoted Kahlil al-Hayya as saying the deal would follow understandings reached at the end of the 2014 war between the sides. He did not elaborate.

Al-Hayya added that Hamas supports reaching an accord.

The Hamas leader was speaking from Cairo, where a Hamas delegation was said to be discussing the deal being mediated by Egypt and the UN.

On Friday thousands of Gazans demonstrated along the Israeli border in weekly Hamas-backed ‘March of Return’ demonstrations. Hamas leadership had urged the public to participate in Friday’s protests.

Palestinian protesters demonstrate at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 17, 2018 (AFP/Said Khatib)

Rioters hurled rocks, improvised bombs and Molotov cocktails at soldiers and burned tires to create a smokescreen. Others launched incendiary balloons towards Israel.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported that two men had been killed and around 250 injured, of which at least 25 were said hit by live fire.

On Thursday Al-Mayadeen reported that the long-term deal taking shape will last for a year and see the establishment of a cargo shipping connection between Gaza and Cyprus. Israel will have security control over the sea traffic between the Palestinian coastal enclave and Cyprus, according to the report from the TV channel, which cited sources familiar with the details.

Hadashot TV news reported Thursday that the head of the Shin Bet security agency has warned cabinet ministers that excluding the Palestinian Authority from the accord in Gaza will send a message that terrorism is rewarded.

Head of Shin Bet security service Nadav Argaman attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee meeting at the Knesset on July 12, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Pushing aside [Abbas] from the process [of reaching an] agreement will strengthen Hamas in the West Bank and prove terror pays,” Nadav Argaman was quoted as saying. “Such a move would also weaken the moderates and prove to Palestinians that only the path of violence achieves results.”

Hamas and the PA have been at odds since the terror group violently took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. A number of reconciliation agreements between them have failed to patch up their differences, most recently an Egyptian-sponsored deal signed in October.

Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began, a Hamas ministry says. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

Hamas has long made access to a sea port a key strategic goal. Under the conditions of Israel’s naval blockade, goods heading to Gaza are currently shipped to Israeli ports and then trucked into Gaza.

Trucks carrying goods enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing after it was reopened by Israel on August 15, 2018. (Flash90)

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the PA. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel in the last decade.

Sources told Al-Mayadeen that the forthcoming deal will include Qatari funding for Gaza’s electricity bills in cooperation with Israel, and Qatari payment of civil service employees’ salaries in Gaza in cooperation with Egypt.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman pitched the idea of setting up a floating dock for Palestinian sea traffic in Cyprus when he met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in June, Hadashot news reported at the time.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset on July 2, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The plan was conditional on the return of two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers held by Hamas, the television report said.

Two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively, are currently being held Hamas, along with the remains of two slain IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

According to a Channel 10 report Thursday, Liberman met with Qatar’s envoy to Gaza during his trip to Cyprus, and the two discussed efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and Qatari proposals to improve humanitarian conditions in the Strip, as well as the return of the Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers’ bodies.

READ MORE: