Wednesday, August 10, 2022
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Daily Briefing: SHIFTING RELATIONSHIPS IN THE MIDDLE EAST SINCE SIGNING OF ABRAHAM ACCORDS 

Table of Contents:

 

White House Abraham Accords Signing Ceremony on September 15, 2020 (Wikipedia)

Pre-Hanukkah Dubai Event Joins Jews and Arabs from Middle East, North Africa:  Eliana Rudee, JNS, Dec. 11, 2020


Israel and Global Powers Compete for Access to the Eastern Mediterranean:  Israel Kasnett, JNS, Nov. 30, 2020

______________________________________________________Pre-Hanukkah Dubai Event Joins Jews and Arabs from Middle East, North Africa
Eliana Rudee
JNS, Dec. 11, 2020Amid the newly rebuilt “Abraham’s Tent,” Arabs and Mizrahi Jews joined together under one roof in Dubai—the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates—exploring the historic kinship of and future alliances between the two peoples.At the Dec. 6 event at Dubai’s Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, participants discussed the impact of the Abraham Accords at the people-to-people level and utilized the history, culture and traditions of the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as a bridge to further alliances between Arabs and Jews.

Prior to the event, the museum held a photo exhibition of sites in former Jewish communities throughout these regions sponsored by the Azrieli Foundation, with images supplied by Diarna, the Geo-Museum of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Life.

The event also marked the launch of an international center in Jerusalem that will chronicle the history and culture of MENA Jews, as well as the signing of a historic memorandum of understanding.

The Dubai Museum, the International Institute for Tolerance and the Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry committed to teaching about what unites Jews and Arabs, becoming hubs of people-to-people cooperation and partnerships, and supporting preservation efforts of regional and archeological sites of importance to both Jews and Arabs.

Ashley Perry, CEO and chairman of the Heritage Center for Middle East and North Africa Jewry, praised the preservation efforts during a panel, saying, “in the Middle East and North Africa, we have countless Jewish sites without community, and in Israel, we have community without memorial or an official institution for the preservation of the history and culture of the Jews of MENA.”

“Tonight,” he said, “we rectify both of these gaps by holding the first-ever event in the Arab world committed to remembering lost Jewish communities and the foundation of building a heritage center for MENA Jews in Jerusalem.”

Similarly, Elie Abadie, senior rabbi of the Jewish Council of the United Arab Emirates, said the event “closed a circle” for him personally, having been born in Lebanon, where he was “raised with the Arabic language, Arab cuisine, Arab tradition, and hearing the muʾaddin [call to prayer],” yet having to leave Lebanon as a refugee because he was Jewish.

Now, Abadie told JNS, “I feel very welcomed, and again I am speaking Arabic, enjoying the local cuisine and hearing the muʾaddin anew. I feel like I have come home to my roots—to the region where I was born, to the language that I first spoke, and to the beautiful traditions and customs that I grew up with.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Israel-Morocco Deal Follows History of Cooperation on Arms and Spying
Ronen Bergman
NYTimes, Dec. 10, 2020

Behind the announcement Thursday that Israel and Morocco will establish their first formal diplomatic ties, there lies almost six decades of close, secret cooperation on intelligence and military matters between two nations that officially did not acknowledge each other.

Israel has helped Morocco obtain weapons and intelligence-gathering gear and learn how to use them, and helped it assassinate an opposition leader. Morocco has helped Israel take in Moroccan Jews, mount an operation against Osama bin Laden — and even spy on other Arab countries.

The collaboration — uncovered in an array of interviews conducted and documents unearthed over many years — reflects a longstanding Israeli policy of building covert ties to Arab regimes where common interests — and enemies — could be found. In particular, Israel pursued a so-called periphery strategy, reaching out to more distant states that were far removed from the Israeli-Arab territorial dispute or that had hostile relations with Israel’s own enemies.

The Moroccan-Israeli relationship stemmed in part from the large number of Jews in Morocco before the birth of Israel in 1948, many of whom would migrate there, making up one of the largest parts of Israel’s population. Some one million Israelis are from Morocco or descended from those who were, ensuring a deep, abiding interest in that country more than 2,000 miles away.
 
 When Morocco gained independence from France in 1956, it banned Jewish emigration. Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, smuggled out many Jews, but the operation was exposed in 1961, when a Mossad ship carrying such migrants sank, killing most of those aboard.

The next month, a new Moroccan king, Hassan II, took power, and Israel made a highly successful effort to cultivate him. Israeli agents met with the Moroccan opposition leader, Mehdi Ben Barka, who asked for help overthrowing the king; instead, the Israelis told Hassan of the plot.

The king permitted mass emigration of Jews and allowed Mossad to establish a station in Morocco.

Israel provided weapons and trained Moroccans in using them; it supplied surveillance technology and helped organize the Moroccan intelligence service; and the two shared information gathered by their spies — the start of decades of such cooperation.

A crucial moment came in 1965, when Arab leaders and military commanders met in Casablanca, and Morocco allowed Mossad to bug their meeting rooms and private suites. The eavesdropping gave Israel unprecedented insight into Arab thinking, capabilities and plans, which turned out to be vital to Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces in preparing for the 1967 war.

“These recordings, which were truly an extraordinary intelligence achievement, established our feeling, of the top I.D.F., that we will win the war against Egypt,” Gen. Shlomo Gazit, who later become the chief of military intelligence, said in a 2016 interview. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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The Great Game In The Middle East: Why The Pakistan-Saudi Relationship Is Going Off The Rails
Yogesh Gupta
The Times of India, Dec. 10, 2020

After getting a snub from Saudi Arabia that Pakistan should not hijack the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) forum, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi relented to a mention of Jammu & Kashmir in the documents adopted at the OIC foreign ministers’ meeting held in Niger in the last week of November.

Earlier, Qureshi had sought a special meeting of OIC foreign ministers to discuss the Kashmir issue, failing which he had threatened that Pakistan would itself convene a meeting of the Islamic countries outside the OIC framework. The Saudi reaction was forthright as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) recalled a loan of $3 billion given earlier to Pakistan, stopped delivery of oil on deferred loan and disallowed flights from Pakistan (while allowing them from 25 other nations).

How did the traditional friendship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia go so wrong suddenly? The answer lies in Pakistan’s failure to read the new dynamics reshaping Middle East politics – with uglier contestation between Iran, Turkey and Malaysia on one side and Saudi Arabia and Israel on the other.

Effective power in Saudi Arabia has passed into the hands of MBS who considers Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei as “worse than Hitler” and Iran his implacable foe, determined to undermine Saudi influence and to rule over the entire Islamic world.

The Trump administration’s policy to apply “maximum pressure” on Iran has failed to alter Iran’s behaviour. Using its network of proxies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, Iran went on to attack its adversaries – recall the attack on two Saudi oil facilities in September 2019 – gaining considerable influence in these countries. It utilised US termination of the nuclear deal by shortening the ‘breakout period’ (time required to move to nuclear weapons stage) from about a year earlier to three months.

The US’s placid reaction to the attack on its oil facilities made it clear to Saudi Arabia that it needed more external support to defend itself.

MBS started relying more and more on Israel for assistance in counterterrorism, training of its security personnel and advanced technologies.
Israel not only shares Saudi’s implacable hostility towards Iran but has shown determination to act against her repeatedly – more recently in the reported assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on November 27, after it got convinced that Iran had come too close to acquiring nuclear weapon capability.

The US has encouraged this putative alliance as it helps in retaining Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in her sphere of influence, against the advances being made by China and Russia to augment their reach in the region. President-elect Joe Biden is unlikely to reverse Trump’s major policies, except exploring if a nuclear deal could be revived with pushback of Iran’s destabilising behaviour. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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Israel and Global Powers Compete For Access to the Eastern Mediterranean
Israel Kasnett
JNS, Nov. 30, 2020

In the past decade, the eastern Mediterranean Sea has emerged as an important economic and strategic route for resource extraction and transportation, as well as an area of increased competition between major regional and global maritime powers vying for influence. Once only concerned about land threats, Israel has also turned its attention to the sea. The Jewish state now has significant natural-gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean and recently commissioned its most advanced warship ever to patrol these waters and protect its interests.

At the same time, as this arena now features a stronger U.S., Russian and Turkish naval presence, Chinese-owned ports and European Union maritime infrastructure, the question of how competing interests in the Mediterranean Sea play out has become paramount.

A panel co-organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Israel and the Haifa Maritime Policy & Strategy Research Center at the University of Haifa brought together security and naval experts from around the world to discuss U.S., E.U., Chinese, Russian and Turkish interests in expanding their naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, and what the future holds for the region.

Asli Aydıntaşbaş, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a columnist for The Washington Post, said she does not see Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s efforts to exert influence in the region as Islamist or neo-Ottoman, but rather as pride in Turkish nationalism. She said that Turkey is “clearly a resurgent power and not sure of its commitments to the Trans-Atlantic alliance, and is looking at Asia and Russia as alternatives if for nothing to complement its relationship with the West.”

“Erdoğan sees it as his calling in life to see Turkey emerge as a great power and emerging power in the 21st century,” she added.

As a result, Turkey has increased tensions with its old rival Greece in the eastern Mediterranean. In particular, the growing cooperation between Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel as part of the “East Med Bloc” has further fueled Turkey’s ambitions in the region, especially with its involvement in Libya.

Aydıntaşbaş said Turkey has moved into Libya, Syria and the Caucasus to fill the vacuum left by Western powers due to “disinterest and detachment” from the region. According to Aydıntaşbaş, Turkey has “reached a crossroads” in terms of external pressures with the prospect of E.U. sanctions in December over the purchase of Russian S-400 air-defense systems. “This may force Turkey to make decisions on its foreign policy,” she said. “The Turkish economy is fragile, and it cannot sever ties with western allies. It is crunch-time and decision-making time.”

‘All about standing up to the U.S.’

Meanwhile, Russia has also staked out its stronger presence in the eastern Mediterranean. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union established a naval base in Tartus, Syria. As part of its involvement in the Syrian Civil War, Russian signed an agreement in 2017 to expand and use its naval facility at Tartus free-of-charge and enjoy sovereignty jurisdiction over the base.… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
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For Further Reference:

Cotler’s ‘Cameo Role’ in Bringing Sadat and Begin Together Finally Told:  Janice Arnold, Canadian Jewish Record, Dec. 8, 2020 — Irwin Cotler may have been the matchmaker between Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, the unlikely couple who forged the historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

What Does Israel Stand To Gain From Relations With Morocco? – Analysis:  Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 14, 2020 — US President Donald Trump’s announcement about diplomatic relations between Israel and Morocco was met with praise in Jerusalem and across the country.

Morocco Is A Trove Of Jewish History If You Know Where To Go Leanne Italie, Times of Israel, Apr. 18, 2019 — With its mountains and desert, beach resorts and Berber villages, Morocco is a feast for travelers of all kinds, including those who want to explore the kingdom’s deep Jewish roots.

Power Rivalry in the Horn: Egypt’s View of Ethiopia’s Tigrayan Woes:  Giuseppe Dentice and Tiziana Corda, ISPI, Dec. 9, 2020 —   We need to look beyond our immediate issues such as Eritrea, Somalia, and the problems of the two Sudans. Those [are] issues we can handle […]. We face two strategic adversaries. One[1] is Egypt.”

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