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Lost in Lebanon, My Oh Myanmar, South African Thaw


Where’s Saad Hariri? Lebanon Wants to Know

Anne Barnard, The New York Times, November 7th 2017

Recap:

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly flew to Saudi Arabia and announced his resignation on Saudi TV, blaming Iranian meddling in Lebanese politics. Hariri's departure stoked fears of a regional escalation between Iran and the Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia, with Lebanon on the front lines.

The Context:

  • Hariri served as Prime Minister between 2009-2011. In 2016, he assumed office again in a power-sharing government headed by President Michel Aoun, a supporter of Hezbollah [1].

  • Hariri blamed Iran for fomenting “disorder and destruction” in Lebanon through Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy [2]. Hezbollah, a designated terror organization, allegedly killed Saad’s father Rafik, in 2005 [3].

  • Hezbollah called Hariri's resignation a "Saudi-imposed decision since it did not reflect Hariri's way in dealing with things [4]," while President Aoun called for “preserving [Lebanese] unity.” [5]

  • Although Hariri’s close allies say the Prime Minister had his reasons for severing ties from a unity government with Hezbollah, it seems likely that Hariri’s resignation was part of a broader internal shakeup in Saudi Arabia, where eleven princes, four sitting ministers and dozens of former ministers were arrested this week [6].

  • Saudi Arabia and Iran represent a microcosm of the broader Sunni-Shia divide, and both are engaged in a struggle for Middle East dominance through the various proxy groups they support.

  • Israel has fought numerous wars with Hezbollah and has a vested interest in a stable Lebanon. Hezbollah maintains an active presence along the Israeli-Lebanese border and regularly directs rocket attacks at Israel.

Conversation Points:

  • If Hariri’s resignation is indeed a Saudi power play, what might be their long game?

  • With Hariri out and Lebanon’s government’s in limbo, will Iran’s foes, including Washington and Tel Aviv, step in and fill the power vacuum before someone else does?

FM Pushes Back Against Reports of Israeli Arms Sales to Myanmar

Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, October 24th 2017

Recap:

Facing a torrent of criticism of alleged Israeli arms sales to Myanmar, Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated that it “vigorously denies false reports disseminated in the media regarding its alleged involvement in the tragedy in the Rakhine region of Myanmar.” 600,000 Rohingya Muslims, a Burmese minority, have fled persecution in Myanmar while hundreds have been "systematically killed" by Myanmar's military [7].

The Context:

  • Myanmar, a country of 54 million, sits between China and India [8]. Following years of military rule, a 2015 election finally brought the democratic opposition to power, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. To the world’s dismay, Suu Kyi has stood silently in the face of the accusations leveled against her government [9].

  • According to a Haaretz report, Israel sold Dvora patrol boats to Myanmar, which was part of a more significant deal signed between the two countries. The delivery of the ships, the report stated, came even as the Myanmar Army was being accused of war crimes against the Rohingya Muslims. China, Russia, and Belarus represent 93% of the country’s arms sales.

  • More than 300 rabbis from across the United States signed a petition calling on the Israeli government to stop selling weapons to Myanmar. The appeal highlights the fact that more than 50 Israeli rabbis, as well as different human rights organizations in Israel, have made similar pleas to the Israeli government [10].

Conversation Points:

  • Does Jewish history force Israel to rise above and beyond the standard response to minority persecution?

  • Why does Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi allow the Rohingya Muslim persecution to unfold?

In Thaw, Israeli Minister Meets South African Counterparts Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, November 6th 2017

Recap:

Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegbi met with two South African ministers from the African National Congress (ANC), in what is seen as a sign of warming relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria. South Africa is one of the few African countries that refuses to embrace Israel.

The Context:

  • The ANC has previously hosted senior Hamas leaders on official visits, endorsed boycotts of Israel, suggested downgrading the South African embassy in Israel to an “interest office” and accused Israel of applying a policy of apartheid towards Palestinians [11]. Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS), an organization that seeks to delegitimize Israel through economic, social & cultural isolation, often likens the Jewish state to a modern day version of 20th century Apartheid in which South Africa’s white minority oppressed the country’s black majority.

  • South Africa’s second-largest opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, marched against the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration [12] and in 2014, gathered outside the Israeli Embassy and threatened to remove Israel's ambassador "physically” [12].

  • The number of immigrants from South Africa to Israel has doubled over the past two years [13].

Conversation Points:

  • Do claims of Israeli apartheid strike a chord with South Africans and strengthen their sympathy with the Palestinian cause?

  • What explains the significant increase in South African immigration to Israel?

Notes:

  1. Nasrallah: 'It was not our wish for Hariri to resign', Al Jazeera, November 5th 2017

  2. Ibid.

  3. What Hariri's Resignation Means for Lebanon, Bilal Y. Saab, Foreign Affairs, November 4th 2017

  4. Nasrallah: 'It was not our wish for Hariri to resign', Al Jazeera, November 5th 2017

  5. Lebanese president urges unity to prevent fallout from Hariri exit, Tony Gamal Gabriel, Times of Israel, November 6th 2017

  6. Ibid.

  7. US lawmakers push for action on Myanmar atrocities, Nicole Gaouette, CNN, October 25, 2017

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ibid.

  10. Over 300 U.S. Rabbis Urge Israel to Stop Selling Arms to Myanmar Amid Ethnic Cleansing Campaign, Amir Tibon, Haaretz, October 26th 2017

  11. HANEGBI MAKES RARE OFFICIAL VISIT TO SOUTH AFRICA IN BID TO WARM TIES, ILANIT CHERNICK, JERUSALEM POST, NOVEMBER 7, 2017

  12. SOUTH AFRICAN OPPOSITION PARTY MARCHES AGAINST ISRAEL ON BALFOUR DAY, ILANIT CHERNICK, JERUSALEM POST, NOVEMBER 1st 2017

  13. HANEGBI MAKES RARE OFFICIAL VISIT TO SOUTH AFRICA IN BID TO WARM TIES, ILANIT CHERNICK, JERUSALEM POST, NOVEMBER 7, 2017


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