jump to navigation

Apr. 30, ’09: LEBANON: Generals’ Release May Influence June Election April 30, 2009

Posted by Helena Cobban in Uncategorized.
comments closed

Analysis by Helena Cobban*

WASHINGTON, Apr 30 (IPS) – On Wednesday, a judge at the Hague-based “Special Tribunal for Lebanon” (STL) ordered Lebanon to release four senior Lebanese generals imprisoned since 2005 on suspicion of involvement in killing former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in February of that year.

The order from pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen raised new questions about the course the newly opened STL might take. It also caused jubilation – and celebratory gunfire – among those Lebanese who had previously distrusted the court, fearing it was engaged in a U.S.-backed witch-hunt against Syria and all its allies in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s four million citizens go to the polls Jun. 7 in a parliamentary election that will determine the balance in the country’s next government. Ever since Lebanon won independence in 1943 it has been a battleground in which stronger regional – and international – powers have competed, hard, for influence. People and politicians throughout the Middle East will therefore watch the results of the election carefully, to see which way the region’s tides are flowing.

(more…)

Apr. 24, 2009: Obama and Netanyahu – Storm Clouds Ahead? April 24, 2009

Posted by Helena Cobban in Uncategorized.
comments closed


WASHINGTON, Apr 24 (IPS) – A big confrontation is brewing between the United States and Israel’s new government over the Palestine issue.

Since his first days in office, President Barack Obama has expressed clear support for speedy action toward the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Since then, he and his key advisers – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell – have all quietly but firmly stayed the course in supporting that goal.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly objects. He argues for starting with an “economic peace” for the Palestinians, and discussing sovereignty issues with them only much later – if at all. Though he has stopped short of saying an outright “No” to the Palestinian state idea, his advisers warn that he is adamantly opposed to the emergence of what he and they call “another Hamastan.”

(more…)

Apr.17, ’09: Gaza Changed Everything, But Its People Still Suffer April 18, 2009

Posted by Helena Cobban in Uncategorized.
comments closed

WASHINGTON, Apr 17 (IPS) – Three months after the end of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, and nearly four months after former prime minister Ehud Olmert started it, the standoff between Israel and Hamas is as unresolved as ever.

Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, nearly all of them civilians, are still in a very tough situation, since Israel still prohibits the shipment into Gaza of many requirements for a decent life – including the building materials needed to repair or rebuild the thousands of homes and other structures the Israeli military destroyed during the war.

But it is already clear that the war has changed many aspects of the complex political dynamics both between and inside the Israeli and Palestinian communities.

(more…)

Apr. 10, 2009: One-State Supporters Make a Comeback April 11, 2009

Posted by Helena Cobban in Uncategorized.
comments closed

Analysis by Helena Cobban

WASHINGTON, Apr 10 (IPS) – President Barack Obama has spoken out forcefully – including this week, in Ankara, Turkey – in favour of building an independent Palestinian state alongside a still robust Israel. However, many Palestinians have noted that President George W. Bush also, in recent years, expressed a commitment to Palestinian statehood. But, they note, Bush never took the actions necessary to achieve such a state – and neither, until now, has Obama.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to give very generous support to Israel – where successive governments have built Jewish-only colonies in the occupied West Bank and taken other actions that make a viable Palestinian state increasingly hard to achieve.

Many Palestinians and some important voices in what remains of Israel’s now-battered peace camp have concluded that it is now impossible to win the ‘two-state solution’ envisaged by Bush and Obama. This has led to the re-emergence in both communities of an old idea: that of a single bi- national state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, in which both Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis and Arabic-speaking Palestinians would have equal rights as citizens, and find themselves equally at home.

(more…)

Apr. 3, 2009: MIDEAST: Obama’s Lieberman Problem April 3, 2009

Posted by Helena Cobban in Uncategorized.
comments closed

WASHINGTON, Apr 3 (IPS) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was sworn in Tuesday – just one day later his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, set off a firestorm by saying he judged Israel was no longer bound by agreements reached at the late-2007 peace conference convened by the U.S. in Annapolis, Maryland.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit was one of the first to react. He said he would not shake hands with Lieberman until Lieberman reversed his position on Annapolis – and also retracted some public slights he had earlier voiced against Egypt. Given Egypt’s close alliance with the United States, the verbal battle between the two allies spelled big trouble for Washingon’s posture in the Middle East. Lieberman’s words also increased the numbers of voices in the region calling for the U.S. to distance itself from the Netanyahu government.

(more…)