The Middle East Channel

Kerry returns to the Middle East in efforts to rekindle peace talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on his fifth recent visit to the Middle East, is set to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials this week in efforts to renew peace talks. Speaking from Kuwait Wednesday, Kerry warned that prospects for peace talks could be lost if there is no progress by the U.N. General Assembly in September. He said he was not setting a deadline for resuming negotiations, however maintained that time is an enemy. He stated, "The passage of time allows a vacuum to be filled by people who don't want things to happen." However, recent reports have shown that there may be possible concessions from the parties. Israeli media reported this week that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be willing to make gestures such as freeing more than 100 Palestinian prisoners and freezing new construction outside the Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank. Israeli media also reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had dropped a settlement freeze and the 1967 borders as requirements for resuming talks. Palestinian officials, however, have dismissed the reports. Additionally, on Wednesday, Israel approved the construction of 69 new homes in a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. Israeli officials stressed that the apartments had been approved years prior, and building permits had only been issued on Wednesday. Kerry will meet separately with Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman and Netanyahu in Jerusalem in the next three days. 

Syria

According to U.S. officials and diplomats, the CIA has begun moving weapons for delivery to Syrian opposition fighters within a month. The weapons, suspected to be light arms and possibly anti-tank missiles, are being moved to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses. They will be supplied to small groups of vetted and trained Syrian rebels. The supplies are to be coordinated with a "parallel push" by European and Arab states to provide training and weapons deliveries. Meanwhile, a team of U.N. inspectors that has been blocked from Syria has arrived in Turkey to investigate alleged chemical weapons use in the war. From Turkey, the investigators will not be able to gather soil samples or other scientific evidence of chemical weapons use, but will be able to conduct interviews and collect blood samples from possible witnesses or victims of attacks.

Headlines

  • Reviewing his first year in office, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi admitted mistakes but warned of risks from unrest, ahead of massive protests set for June 30, and blamed "enemies of Egypt" for sabotaging democracy.
  • Clashes between rival militias killed five people and injured 97 others in a second day of violence in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
  • A Sunni list has won the largest bloc of seats in Iraq's provincial elections in the province of Anbar, which delayed elections along with Ninevah province over security concerns.
  • U.S. General Martin Dempsey has recommend bolstering Lebanese and Jordanian forces to deal with the escalating conflict in Syria, and Iraqi forces to counter the reemergence of al Qaeda. 

Arguments and Analysis

Behind the Abdication of Qatar's Emir' (Shibley Telhami, Reuters)

"Nothing was trivial about the moment: Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani gave up his post as emir of Qatar to his son at the pinnacle of his influence, in an act as rare and surprising as his ascending to power through a bloodless coup against his own father in 1995.

The very brevity of the emir's abdication speech and the remarkable absence of boasting about his transformation of Qatar was itself a rarity in an Arab world accustomed to long, windy addresses on even trivial matters.

What drove the policies of the outgoing emir? What will come next?

The fact that the world is paying attention is a testament to the central role that this small, previously sleepy nation now plays on the world stage. The story of what drove the outgoing emir -- and his key partner, Foreign and Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (HBJ) -- tells much about the driving forces in the Arab world. One hint appeared in the announcement's sparse wording: ‘We believe that the Arab world is one human body, one coherent structure, that draws its strength from all its constituent parts.'"

Egyptians must not let their country descend into chaos' (Wadah Khanfar, The Guardian)

"On Sunday, Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi will complete his first year in office. Instead of being an occasion to celebrate -- he is the first elected president -- many fear the anniversary will mark the beginning of the collapse of Egypt's political system.

The opposition has called for mass protests against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to take place on the day. Although dissent and protest is a political right in a democracy, these protests could result in a coup against the democratic process, and could plunge Egypt into a cycle of violence and chaos.

Many criticisms can be made about Morsi's performance and the Brotherhood's behaviour since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Their inability to conduct a serious dialogue with, and facilitate real participation by, opposing political forces has been conspicuous. They took unilateral decisions on a number of issues on which a national consensus was needed. The opposition is not above reproach either. In its attempts over the past year to block the president and the Islamists, and its de facto rejection of the results of the free election, it is trying to change the rules of the democratic game."

The Bane of Palestinian Infighting' (Kimberly Marten, The New York Times)

"Despite massive international assistance, including over $500 million from the U.S. State Department in recent years, reform of the West Bank security forces has frayed. No prime minister can pull it back together alone.

As the Palestinian Authority prime minister from 2007 until he stepped down earlier this month, Salam Fayyad was hailed as the leader of a technocratic revolution in the West Bank, and he made security-sector reform a priority. Fayyad strove to replace the corrupt and intimidating militias of the Arafat era with professional security forces who earned the respect of the population. His efforts won broad international support.

The hope was that Israel would find a reliable security partner in this rebooted version of the Palestinian Authority, smoothing the way to a two-state solution. Indeed the security situation for Israel improved markedly. The P.A. kept its end of the bargain, working with the Israel Defense Forces to contain radical Hamas activity in the West Bank and prevent attacks against Israel. With new training, the security forces also brought street crime in the West Bank under control.

But old patronage networks ultimately proved stronger than the technocrats. Fayyad never managed to control the rat's nest of overlapping Palestinian security agencies, whose constant infighting was encouraged by struggles within President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party."

--Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images

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