Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

The Winner and the Loser


The Winner and the Loser

The analysis saying that the Arab spring –caused by public revolts - may prove Israel's winter, is coming true. Since the fall of Mubarak regime, an Israeli ally, the Jewish state has expressed its deep concerns on the ongoing socio-political changes. Experts say that Israel seems highly frightened of losing partners while others gaining more strategic positions at the political scene.

The Jewish State, in severe need of friendly relation with the regional powers, seems to have come across further obnoxious happenings. The public revolt in Egypt particularly proved a potential threat or, at least, loss of a strategic friendly regime to US's main ally in M.E. The recent socio-political events are radically changing the political landscape, and leaving Israel increasingly concerned about its security. Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported few days ago that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he is worried by apparently anti-Israeli statements made by Egyptian politicians in recent weeks.

Addressing European Union envoys, Netanyahu had said he was "very concerned over some of the voices we've been hearing from Egypt recently". According to the newspaper, Netanyahu's remarks reflect the fears of several senior foreign ministry officials following statements made by high-ranking Egyptian officials at a demonstration outside Israel's Cairo embassy and its consulate in Alexandria.
In the most recent distasteful occurrence for Israel, a surprise deal to end decades of rivalry between Fatah and Hamas was on Thursday welcomed by the Palestinian leadership, but denounced by Israel as crossing "a red line." The agreement, announced in Cairo on Wednesday, saw the secular Fatah party which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and Gaza's Islamist rulers, agree to form a transitional government ahead of elections, which will take place within a year.

Wednesday's deal, which came after 18 months of fruitless talks, drew praise from Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who expressed the hope it would be "an essential and important step to proceed to the immediate establishment of national unity." It was also hailed by Iran, which said it would "speed up developments in the Palestinian arena and the gaining of great victories" against Israel. But it had the opposite reaction in Israel, where hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both warned that the Jewish state would never accept a Hamas government.

Shortly after the deal was announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued Abbas with an ultimatum. "Choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas," he said, warning a deal would pave the way for Gaza's Hamas to extend their control over the West Bank. And in Washington, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor welcomed the deal but said any new Palestinian government must "renounce violence, abide by past agreements and recognize Israel's right to exist." Analysts say Arab uprisings that overthrew Egypt's government and inspired Palestinians to call for unity helped push Hamas and Fatah towards reconciliation.

Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said the deal was made possible by "a favorable climate in the Arab world, particularly in Egypt." He said the new leadership installed after the overthrow of Mubarak "kept an equal distance from both the parties." The Egyptian revolt also removed intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, whom Hamas accused of favoring Fatah, while also depriving Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas of a key supporter in Mubarak. Azzam al-Ahmed, who headed Fatah's delegation in Cairo, said the "Arab spring placed pressure" on both factions to heal their rift, which had left the Palestinians with rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank.

On March 15, tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of the West Bank and Gaza to demand the two sides work towards a unity government, and many welcomed Wednesday's announcement of a deal. Officials said the continuing stalemate in talks with Israel also helped push the two parties back into talks that culminated in a deal. Mahmud Zahar, a senior Hamas official and part of its delegation to Cairo, said the deal was the result of "a change in the (regional) political environment and the failure in negotiations." The move drew cautious praise from the European Union and a United Nations envoy, but analysts warned it was only the first step in a long process of reconciliation fraught with potential pitfalls.

In another move alarming for Israel, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi said Friday Egypt will permanently open the Rafah border crossing to ease the blockade on Gaza, sparking Israeli concerns over the implications for regional security. Arabi said in an interview with Al-Jazeera his country would take "important steps to help ease the blockade on Gaza in the few days to come". He said Egypt would no longer accept that the Rafah border — Gaza's only crossing that bypasses Israel — remain blocked, describing his country's decision to seal it off as "shameful."

A senior Israeli official said the Jewish state is "very concerned" about the implications of the Rafah crossing being thrown open. The fact that the new regime in Cairo was seeking to upgrade its ties with Gaza's Hamas rulers was an issue which could have strategic implications for Israel's national security, he said. "We are troubled by the developments in Egypt, by the voices calling to annul the peace treaty, by the rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, and by the upgrading of relations between Egypt and Hamas. These developments potentially have strategic implications for Israel's national security."

A loss for Israel is, to some extent, a direct gain for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Following democratic movements in Tunisia and Egypt and subsequent to collapse of Mubarak government, experts acknowledged Iran's glee on the occasion. They said the Islamic Republic had obtained marvelous opportunity to expand its area of influence and add to its share in the regional politics. Iran's most critical foe in the Arab world Mubarak was ousted from power and protests continue spreading across Middle Eastern countries. It brings Iran an enormous chance for seeking bigger role in M.E. power politics. Soon after fall of Mubarak regime, Egypt agreed to let two Iranian naval vessels transit the Suez Canal. The move, however was set earlier than public uprisings, came despite expressions of concern by Israeli officials. Iran said the vessels were heading to Syria for training and the request to move through the canal was in line with international regulations.

It was the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iranian warships passed through the Suez Canal, an opportunity facilitated by recent political developments in the region.
In order to optimize the opportunity, Iranian officials have expressed tendency to promptly resume relations with the post-Mubrak regime in Egypt, a call that has received positive response from Egyptian officials. Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi, appointed after the ouster of Mubarak, said earlier this month that Cairo was ready to open a "new page" with the Islamic republic. In the meantime, Iranian official IRNA news agency reported days ago that an Egyptian Islamist and a long-time opponent of the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak had held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Magdi Hussein, Secretary General of Egypt's Islamist Labour Party (Al-Amal), recently announced his intention to run for the presidential election later this year.

Although the statements do not indicate a big win for one or loss for the other, what is clear is that landscape of power in the region is transforming and there will come certain position changes in the regional power contest. With the changes happened so far, there is no certain clue on a final big political win for the Islamic Republic because the country's most significant ally Syria is currently going through same imbroglio resembling to that of Egypt that brought Iran a big win. And, on the other side, the Hamas working with Fatah will not be the same group that solely relied on the Islamic Republic; Hamas's unity with her rival Palestinian group may not produce the results that Iranians have for long time struggled to get hold of. So, it'll be too early to judge if the recent developments have proved too costly for Israel.

Nasrudding Hemati is the permanent writer of Daily Outlook Afghanistan and Writes on National and International issues. He can be reached through mail@outlookafghanistan.com

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