The Middle East Channel

Palestinian prisoner's death fuels West Bank protests

Violence has escalated in the West Bank as over 10,000 Palestinians gathered on Monday for the funeral of Arafat Jaradat, 30, who died in Israeli custody on Saturday. The Israeli Defense Forces detained Jaradat for allegedly throwing stones and maintained that the cause of death is unclear. The investigation is ongoing, but Israel had initially cited cardiac arrest. According to the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, "The signs that appeared during the autopsy show clearly that he was subjected to sever torture that led immediately to his death." Jaradat's death came after days of protest in the West Bank over Israel's treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Four prisoners who have been undergoing a hunger strike were joined on Sunday by the 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli jails and Palestinians have continued protests across the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made "an unequivocal demand" to the Palestinian Authority to calm protests and transferred $100 million in tax revenue it had been withholding to the Palestinian Authority.

Syria

Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Syria is ready to hold talks with the armed opposition, speaking from Russia on Monday, in the clearest yet offer for negotiations. The regime and the opposition in recent weeks have softened their positions and said they are prepared for some sort of contact. Moaz al-Khatib, head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition said he had not yet been in contact with the Syrian government about talks, and is waiting for communication. However, spokesman for the coalition, Khalid Saleh, told the Guardian that the opposition rejects the offer as "empty" and "deceitful." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping to meet on Thursday in Rome with the Syrian opposition, along with foreign ministers from Europe and the Middle East. However, the Syrian National Coalition said it would boycott the "Friends of Syria" meeting. The coalition said it is also turning down talks in Washington and Moscow, protesting the international community's "shameful" failure to stop violence in Syria. Last week was particularly bloody for Syria with a series of bombings in the capital Damascus and three missile strikes in the northern city Aleppo.  

Headlines  

  • Protester Mahmood Aljazeeri, 20, died in a hospital after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister thrown by police. He is the third protester to die during demonstrations that occured in Bahrain last week.
  • Israel's Defense Ministry announced that Israel and the United States successfully tested the Arrow 3 anti-missile system.
  • The United States and other world powers will offer Iran some relief in sanctions during talks over the country's disputed nuclear program set for this week in Kazakhstan. 

Arguments and Analysis

Last call before next intifada (Haaretz)

"The writing was on the wall for quite some time. The recent riots and demonstrations that broke out over the last few days in the occupied territories should not have surprised anyone. After years of political stalemate, an election campaign that largely ignored the occupation, and statements by Israeli political figures that proved their dangerous complacency about putting the "situation" at the bottom of their list of priorities - the Palestinians were left in their despair and suffering without any political horizon.

Several developments have only deepened the despair: Israel's intention to build in Area E1; its repeat arrests of 14 prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit deal; the army's killing of nonviolent protesters and the harsh means through which it is trying to prevent demonstrations; the security forces' failure to do anything to thwart harassment of Palestinians by settlers, who have become emboldened recently; and Hamas' relative success in Operation Pillar of Defense at forcing Israel's hand through rocket fire."

How to Save Syria from Al Qaeda (Leslie H. Gelb, The Daily Beast)  

"The real dangers in Syria today come less from Assad, or even Iran, and much more from increasingly potent Sunni extremist fighters. If the "rebels" win, as matters now stand, jihadis likely would be the real victors. They'd swiftly create a terrorist state to menace Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. U.S. strategy must be constructed to blunt that nightmare.

Stopping jihadis from taking over Syria could represent the only common goal between Syria's ruling Alawites and the secular Sunni rebels. Shiite-related Alawites rightly fear an al Qaeda-like triumph in Syria as the worst possible outcome. There can be no doubt in their minds that Sunni extremists would make the mass killing of Alawites their number one priority. The secular leaders of the Syrian rebels, clustered in the exile group known as the Syrian National Council, also must worry about the extremist threat they themselves would face if the Assad government fell now. Remember, most Syrian Sunnis don't have a history of religious radicalism. They don't want rule by shari'a law any more than the Alawites do.

U.S. strategy must focus on building this common ground. Washington should want to ensure that neither its European nor its regional allies gave arms to groups suspected of being even slightly jihadi in nature. In particular, our Arab friends already sending arms must err even further on the side of great caution. Such restraint on our part would show the Alawites we care about their safety, a critical signal. Our negotiating efforts would follow along similar lines: yes, Assad would have to go. Yes, secular rebel leaders and the remaining Alawite leaders would agree to freeze the jihadis out of negotiations and governmental power. And yes, both secular Sunni and Alawite leaders would agree to share governmental power and to protect their own respective communities for the indefinite future. It's not pretty or easy, but it is common ground."

Is Egypt's new parliamentary election law constitutional? (Nathan Brown, The Arabist)

"The short answer is: Maybe. We'll have to wait and see.

The quick retort: Not again?

The quick answer: Yes, it could be déjà vu all over again. But it might not.

Here's the story. The country's Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) has struck down the country's parliamentary election law four times. Three of these times that led directly to a dissolution of the parliament. On the other occasion, the parliament had already been dissolved.

And each time that led to all kinds of problems: how to write a new election law with parliament dissolved; whether the new law would be constitutional; what happened with the actions taken by the old parliament; and so on. Those questions could be answered, but the turmoil was real-even with the Mubarak regime's pseudo-parliaments. When parliament is something to be taken far more seriously, the effects of a dissolution by court order are farther reaching. Egypt is still reeling from the effects of the 2012 dissolution.

So the constitution drafters knew what to do: they availed themselves of a tool sometimes spoken of but never used in Egypt before (with one exception): prior review. The parliamentary election law would be drafted and then sent to the SCC for review. That would immunize it from later attempts to challenge it on constitutional grounds. Egypt's SCC, like most specialized constitutional courts, does not try concrete cases (though concrete cases are the genesis of most of its work). In a sense it tries laws instead. Its job in constitutional matters is to say if a law is constitutional or not. If it says a law is constitutional one day, it is hard for it to change its mind later on. (For that reason, many justices of the SCC dislike prior review and regard it as an attempt to tie the SCC's hands-and indeed, in Mubarak's times some unsuccessfully argued for prior review with precisely that motivation)."

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey

AFP/Getty Images/MAHMUD HAMS

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