The U.S. State Department recently warned (again) that any move by the Palestine Liberation Organization to enhance the organization's status at the United Nations would, among other things, put United States aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) at risk.
That day may not be far off. PA President Mahmoud Abbas plans to ask the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade Palestine to non-member state status later this month. But is a U.S. aid cutoff such a bad thing? More voices are questioning international aid to the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, with some even calling for a full boycott of the aid industry.
During his recent visit to the United States, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen expressed his concerns that if the National Dialogue -- a forum supposedly representing the major political players in Yemen -- fails, Yemen could slide into a civil war that will be worse than those in Somalia or Afghanistan. Part of this rhetoric was strategic, intended to nudge the so-called "Friends of Yemen" to commit to much needed (although potentially pernicious) aid. Nevertheless, Hadi is only slightly exaggerating the dangers Yemen could face, and recent developments -- such as the delay of the National Dialogue -- make his predictions more worrisome.
Hadi, who ran unopposed in February, was elected after a prolonged stalemate since January 2011. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-engineered compromise that ensured the transfer of power from then President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Hadi helped avert the civil war that Yemen was dangerously skirting at that time. Many groups in Yemen, however, view the GCC deal as a failure and an imposition that ensured that formal and informal power remain in the hands of old elites. As the International Crisis Group (ICG) reports, Yemeni elites have kept their hold on power as they continue to play musical chairs with government positions. Meanwhile, the Houthi rebels in the North, the Hiraaki separatists in the South, as well as various youth groups who were the backbone of the early days of the revolution, are left out of the deal.
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In light of the resignation of the National Security Council's Dennis Ross, and as the international community waits for the United Nations to consider Palestine's road to formal statehood, we call upon the Obama administration and so-called Middle East experts advising the various presidential hopefuls to take some introspective "down time." The purpose is to reassess heretofore time-honored policies, practices, political campaign pronouncements, and come up with a realistic and viable way forward.
It is clear that Obama's efforts toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire have been nothing short of a failure. When tallying on to previous failed administration attempts, the cumulative effect has been a clear loss of strategic leverage. This loss is detrimental to the U.S. interest of securing two states living side by side in peace in the region, as well as influencing the likes of Syria and Iran at a critical time. This trend must be reversed and replaced by revitalized action on a critical U.S. national security issue.
Cynicism and skepticism always have their place, but today might just go down as an historic day on the Israeli-Palestinian front. No, there is no direct or quick fix move from the Palestinian application for U.N. membership to the actual realization of a Palestinian state (and certainly not when one factors in the Israeli response) but the Palestinian U.N. move does represent the most definitive break yet with the failed and structurally flawed strategies for advancing peace of many a year. Many Palestinians and others are now suggesting that the PLO leadership progress from the symbolism of September 23rd to a concerted struggle for their freedom centered on nonviolent resistance, diplomacy, and international legality, believing that this would finally deliver a breakthrough.
In its theatrics, today was rather predictable -- other than the Quartet statement of the afternoon, on which more in a moment. The speeches of Abbas and Netanyahu held few, if any, surprises. Abbas played to the Palestinian community at home and around the world, and to the rest of the international community.
Egyptian activists took to the streets on September 9 calling to "correct the path" of a revolution which they see slipping away. They particularly focused their ire on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which they see as leading a counter-revolution against the will of the Egyptian people. But part of their problem is that, according to a survey carried out by the Arab Barometer this summer, 94.5 percent of Egyptians responded that they trusted the SCAF and 93.5 percent thought it was doing a good job -- far more than they do any other part of Egyptian society.
While 78.7 percent of Egyptians agreed that "despite its problems democracy is the best for form of government," their support for democracy is at least in part driven by a belief that such a system is good for the economy. Of the respondents, 64.4 percent defined the most essential characteristic of democracy as either a low level of inequality or the provision of basic necessities for all citizens. Another 12.1 percent stated that it is eliminating corruption. By contrast, only 6.0 percent defined democracy's most essential characteristic as the ability to change the government through elections and only 3.9 percent defined it as the right to criticize those in power. With 84.2 percent of respondents saying that the economy represents Egypt's greatest challenge, these findings should offer some powerful lessons to all of those interested in supporting Egypt's transition.
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Observers of Yemen are often asked why the revolution there has taken so long and why it has been so inconclusive. The more basic question -- never asked, though inextricably tied to this -- is why an uprising started in the first place.
When the Arab Spring started in Tunisia and began to spread in the region, I did not think the conditions in Yemen were ripe for it. Indeed corruption, inequality, and the callous disregard for law were much worse in Yemen than any other country in the region. However, the conditions usually viewed as prerequisites for revolution -- a large and mobile middle class, a strong civil society, high literacy rate, and internet penetration -- are all non-existent. Yet the state does benefit from an historical accident, the adoption of a multi-party system in 1990 as part of the unity agreement between South and North Yemen. Twenty years of multi-party experience and the attendant mobilization skills of politicking made it possible for Yemeni activists to launch the revolution. Unfortunately, the absence of a broad middle class and a dynamic civil society has stunted the movement's momentum. The revolution has gradually transformed into what is largely an elitist struggle for power.
As President Mahmoud Abbas continues to prepare the Palestinian bid for "observer" status at the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, some members of congress have threatened to cut off economic and/or security aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA). One might expect this threat to resonate in Ramallah. The PA has long been one of the most aid-dependent administrations in the world and contributing $833 million in 2009, the United States is its largest provider of official development assistance -- outmatching the second largest donor, the United Arab Emirates, by almost a factor of four.
Yet Abbas and his advisors have solidly rebuffed Obama administration pleas and congressional threats to abandon the PA's petition. Why hasn't the PA been dissuaded by the prospect of less (or no) U.S. aid in one year's time? Part of the answer, of course, lies in the homegrown political challenges confronting Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam al-Fayyad -- progress on which seems stagnant relative to the broader "Arab Awakening" in the region. Another part lies in the intransigence of the Netanyahu government, which offers little hope for meaningful negotiations. But the final part of the answer lies in the nature of U.S. aid itself.
Aid is best at buying leverage when it is in high demand by the recipient, unavailable from other donors, and does not directly serve donor interests. In these situations, donors can issue credible threats to withdraw aid if the recipient fails to implement the donor's foreign policy demands. This year, the United States will provide only about $400.4 million* in Economic Support Funds to the PA, much of which is distributed among technical assistance projects that are widely available from other donors. This is not good material for leverage -- Congress ought not bother. The two most important unique contributions that the United States makes to the PA are diplomatic support and security assistance. However, neither is well-suited to pressuring the PA on the statehood bid -- the former because it has proven ineffective, the latter because it serves U.S. and Israeli interests so well. And that leaves the US with few remaining cards to use with a desperate Palestinian leadership.
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The news that Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi's wife and three of his children found political refuge in neighboring Algeria comes as no surprise given the country's long-standing effort to reaffirm its revolutionary heritage, drawn from 132 years of colonial occupation and nearly eight years of a war of national liberation. Yet this historically-rooted revolutionary struggle was long ago routinized. The resulting bureaucratically defined and elitist directed nationalist myth is intended as much to sustain the political status quo as to serve as an exemplar of peoples' revolt against hegemonic rule, whether foreign imposed or domestically conspired.
Algeria's reluctance to abandon its fellow revolutionary in Libya flows from an outdated yet still dominant ideological frame of reference through which Algeria sees the world and wants to be seen by it. It also reflects an unwillingness to accept the new geopolitical and strategic realities that the Arab Spring has brought to North Africa and the Middle East.
After serving nearly six years as the special advisor to the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Territories, I came home convinced of one thing, cognizant of another. The first was that a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not only in the vital security interests of Israel and the future state of Palestine, but also the United States. The second, initially noted two years ago by a former IDF Chief of Staff, was that, "The USSC, the IDF and the Palestinian Security Services were buying time, time for the politicians.... [A]nd they're wasting it." As we approach the United Nations General Assembly session in September, the first conviction remains immutable, while sadly, the reality of the general's observation appears not to have changed in the slightest.
T. E. Lawrence wrote in the aftermath of the First World War, "...[W]hen we achieved, and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew... We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly, and made their peace."
GAZA CITY — A predominant, if misguided, narrative holds Gaza to be a Mediterranean secret, where food is plentiful and joy is unabated. Such statements are not exactly false. As a Gazan, I can say I have laughed, dined out (not just falafel), and been able to embrace my proclivity for consumption -- recently purchasing a 37" flat-screen TV. But this has been a product of the stubbornness and creativity of capitalism under an enforced closure (where goods flow into Gaza, but what goes out is very limited). Not to mention the sheer luck that I hail from an elite class and of the simple fact that humans, in desperate circumstances, still muster the ability to "look on the bright side of life."
Two recent developments in Gaza have propped up the "there are no problems in Gaza narrative," and will undoubtedly feature in a soon-to-be-shot promotional video by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One is the pool-hall-cum-lounge called Carrino's; the other, Munib Al-Masri's six-star Movenpick hotel.
CAIRO, Egypt — The need to establish stability during a period of great uncertainty was a central issue in Egypt's constitutional amendment referendum held on March 19. Advocates of a "yes" vote championed an immediate path to political, economic, and social stability through amendments to the most offensive provisions of the constitution, which would be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections in the coming months. Only then would a new constitution be considered. While 77.2% of Egyptians approved the referendum, the vote will not bring clarity and assurance to the country. Even though a new sense of confidence has come from the process of the referendum, the implementation of its provisions threatens to spur a new kind of instability and uncertainty.
The referendum asked voters to approve or reject several amendments intended to quickly fix aspects of the constitution dealing mainly with the emergency law and presidential elections. The vote also paved the way for the drafting of a new constitution. None of the amendments were particularly controversial in substance, but an opposition movement quickly developed to denounce the amendments as a mere "patching" of an unacceptable constitution that had become null and void as a result of the revolution. Opponents of the referendum also expressed concern that starting with parliamentary elections would benefit existing power structures-the remnants of the National Democratic Party (NDP) and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular-to the exclusion of new and fledgling parties. Thus, the parliament that would oversee the new constitution would fail to be truly representative, they argued.
If parliamentary elections were to be held in Egypt before summer, many argue that only the National Democratic Party (NDP) and the Muslim Brotherhood would be able to secure a significant number of seats. The two are viewed as the only political groupings currently organized at the national level and able to confront the challenge of an imminent election. But after weeks of popular attacks directed against NDP symbols, and several of its highest representatives facing charges in court, what really remains of the former ruling party - of its organization and its capacity to mobilize?
The NDP, target of popular anger
As soon as Egyptian protesters began taking to the streets on January 25, it became clear that the National Democratic Party (NDP) - like its Tunisian counterpart, the Democratic Constitutional Rally - would soon become one of the main targets of popular anger.
Over the past decade, the NDP had come to symbolize everything that crystallized opposition to the rule of President Mubarak: the firm grip over the political arena, illustrated by a continuous and almost complete domination of Parliament; the elaboration and implementation of neoliberal reforms and their negative impact on the social conditions of most citizens, especially the middle class; the corruption of a new business elite that has used its growing political influence for its own profit and enrichment; the grooming of Hosni Mubarak's younger son Gamal as heir.
Daniel Ayalon is Israel's deputy minister of foreign affairs.
The recent unrest in parts of the Arab world has not only exposed the appalling lack of development in these countries, but also a number of fundamental deficiencies in the international system. The United Nations, which began its life with a plurality of democratic nations, now allows for an automatic majority of nondemocratic nations. The international system dictates that Arab and Islamic nations, and their knee-jerk defenders, have a majority in almost all of its bodies. This is amply demonstrated by the disproportionate amount of time spent condemning Israel.
If there were ever an example of the inmates running the asylum, it is the U.N. Human Rights Council. This body has whitewashed the human rights record of some of the world's most repressive regimes, while also providing them with a forum to ruminate on and condemn the actions of a free and open nation, Israel.
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The democratic upheaval across the Arab world has now become so profound and overwhelming -- so unstoppable -- as to engulf arguably the least oppressive and most competent autocracy in the region: that of Oman. Compared with other Arab countries, Oman has scored comparatively well in recent years in human rights reports compiled by the U.S. State Department. Although there is no political freedom when it comes to choosing the country's ruler, citizens have participated in free and fair elections for the Majlis al-Shura that advises Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Reports of arbitrary killings and arrests and politically motivated disappearances are rare. In the four decades since he overthrew his reactionary father, Sultan Said bin Taimur, Qaboos has single-handedly brought the country from the throes of anarchy and rebellion to being a strong and modern country with the minimum of repression. I have never encountered a place in the Arab world so well-governed as Oman, and in such a quiet and understated way.
Oman was historically two places. First, there are the coastal cities, which for millennia have been infused with the cosmopolitanism of the Indian Ocean that, thanks to the predictability of its monsoon winds, has brought to Oman the cultural richness of civilizations from as far away as East Africa and the East Indies. Then there is the desert hinterland, a warren of nomadic tribes battling each other for scarce water. When Qaboos came to power, the coast and the desert were politically split. A separatist rebellion had broken out in Dhofar, in the southwestern desert near new oil deposits. The rebellion was hijacked by Marxist radicals. The British backed the Omanis of the coast. When the 29-year-old Qaboos came to power in 1970, he offered a general amnesty to the Dhofari tribesmen. Tribal guerrillas who surrendered were incorporated into the British-trained armed forces. The desert interior was economically developed. Qaboos initiated a nonstop campaign of consultations with friend and enemy to unite the country. It was classic counterinsurgency-cum-nation-building, and over time it worked. By 1975 the desert rebellion was over and Oman was poised for development as a modern state.
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BAGHDAD — The only way to get to Baghdad's Tahrir Square -- yes, it has one too -- on Feb. 25 was to walk. It was a treat to stride down roads usually solid with traffic, but the silent city also felt ominous. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had warned that the long-planned "Day of Rage" protests would be infiltrated by al Qaeda and remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, and imposed a ban on all vehicles within city limits to reduce the risk of car bombs. Religious leaders warned people to stay away, while security officials made doom-laden predictions of violence. Most people were too scared to venture outside.
The hush throughout Baghdad made the clamor in Tahrir Square seem all the louder. Thousands of demonstrators had walked for miles to gather there, not even bothering to go to Friday prayers first. They were mostly men -- some university graduates, others day laborers, but all with the same grievances. We have no electricity and no water, scant job opportunities, and our politicians are liars and thieves, they said. They flung themselves against the blast walls blocking the entrance to the Green Zone, a symbol of the distant and unaccountable elite that they were raging against.
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When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia on Dec. 17 after a municipal worker confiscated his wares, it appeared to be simply another sad story in a region plagued by corruption, brutal state security services, and lack of accountability. But against all odds, his act of desperation has spurred a wave of reform that has engulfed the entire region, toppling the autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and threatening to engulf other countries across the Middle East.
But the uprising has not followed the same course in every country. In Jordan, protests have forced the government to abandon liberal reforms in favor of an unsustainable economic status quo. In Algeria, they have highlighted the public's disaffection with the political process. In other countries, the reverberations from the popular upheaval are still unclear. In the West Bank, for example, opinions remain divided about whether the events represent an opportunity for the Palestinian Authority, or its death knell.
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Since 1979 the United States has spent nearly $2 billion annually on aid to Egypt. Approximately two-thirds has been spent on "foster[ing] a well-trained, modern Egyptian military," with the purpose of ensuring stability in the country and in the region. The remainder of the aid has funded development and economic aid programs targeting civil society development, political party training, and educational exchanges, among other aims. In light of the Egyptian people's ongoing and forceful demonstrations for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak and their calls for a free and democratic political order, the U.S. should shift its aid distribution so that development aid is on par with funding to the military.
President Obama has already called for political change in Egypt leading to more freedom, opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people. In remarks on February 1, the President went so far as to press for an immediate and "orderly transition," leading to free and fair elections rooted in democratic principles. It is now time to begin putting in place the policies that support these words.
Beyond the immediate dilemmas - how and how hard to push Mubarak to stand down, what to say in public versus in private, and how best to pressure the US-backed Egyptian security forces - the transition period that lies ahead for Egypt will hold its own complicating factors for Washington policymakers.
First, it needs to be remembered that this is not primarily about the US (nor should it be), this is about Egyptians empowering themselves. Nevertheless, the US and other international actors will have a role to play and will have to chart a new policy course for relations with Egypt, and this will in no small measure set a trend for the region as a whole.
One minor luxury that the administration should have is that there are not significant or obviously apparent domestic political pressures being brought to bear on this issue. Both parties, Democrat and Republican, have made nice with dictators in the Arab world while paying limited lip service to democracy. There is no victory lap, freedom coupon to clip as was the case in the former Soviet bloc, there is no Arab democracy political lobby, even if the Arab American community will be largely thrilled by what is happening in the region. The one exception to this is the role that some traditional pro-Israel groups may play in urging a go-slow conservatism to a US embrace of change in the Middle East.
SIDI BOUZID, Tunisia — On the gray winter mornings at this out-of-the-way farm town on the scrubby brown steppes between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara desert, you still see a few old farmers in hooded brown cloaks rolling to market on donkey carts. The occasional old woman, hunched against the cold, comes down the main road through town, tugging a camel.
But come about 9 a.m. in Sidi Bouzid -- where 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi lived, burned himself to death, and launched at least one revolution in the Arab world so far -- the blue metal courtyard gates creak open on the squat stucco houses around where he used to live. Out marches an army: broad-shouldered men in their 20s and early 30s in hooded sweatshirts with Sacramento Kings' emblems, or other allusions to Western culture. Young women, crisply dressed in fashionable calf-high boots, clinging long sweaters, and humongous bug-eyed sunglasses. The crowd, growing in number as it streams into Sidi Bouzid's main streets, strides purposefully out of narrow neighborhood gravel lanes smelling of dried sewage.
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A classical Arab idiom maintains that a flood begins with a mere droplet. For freedom-aspiring citizens across the Middle East, Tunisia was akin to the first shower of rain. Two weeks ago, no one could have predicted the overthrow of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's repressive regime in Tunisia. Today, the chatter of citizens and officials across the Middle East is when, not if, the "Tunisia scenario" will completely unfold in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country. Egyptians have struggled for many decades with an authoritarian regime whose rule is marred by repression, corruption, and political and economic stagnation.
The social contract that former President Gamal Abdel Nasser had with Egyptians -- to liberate Arab lands from colonial powers, subsidize food staples and guarantee employment to all university graduates -- has been unraveling for more than three decades. Egypt unscrupulously maintains a peace treaty with Israel, despite that country's relentless occupation of Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese territories. The government has also pursued a policy of economic liberalization without regard to its impact on the Egyptian people. Despite its success in achieving moderate rates of economic growth, this strategy has left millions of families impoverished and unemployed.
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As the Palestinian leadership struggles to contain the damage caused by Al Jazeera's release of leaked documents detailing years of their negotiations with Israel, there is one lesson that risks being buried in all of the current hype. The Palestine Papers, and much of the response to them, demonstrate the increasingly narrow line the Palestinian leadership must walk between satisfying its U.S. and Western benefactors, as well as Israel, and maintaining credibility in the eyes of its own people.
As someone who was involved in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations for many years, including in the development of many of the documents now in question, I have been particularly struck by the extent and tone of the outrage surrounding the leaked documents. For those Palestinians and other Arabs who actively oppose a two-state solution, I can understand and appreciate their outrage over some of the "unprecedented concessions" contained in these documents.
On the other hand, for those who understand the basic requirements of a two state-solution-an outcome most Palestinians and other Arabs still say they favor, even as they remain highly doubtful of the other side's intentions and the ability of their own leaders to achieve it-there hardly seems cause for surprise, at least as relates to the concessions on permanent status issues - if not on other matters.
The Arab world watched in awe last week as brave Tunisians overthrew their corrupt president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, of the past 23 years. As in other Arab "republics" established in the populist ferment of the 1950s, Tunisians have been suffering from rampant corruption and economic deprivation for decades -- leading to frustration that eventually boiled onto the streets despite their government's tight restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly.
Leaders of the other republics in the region are no doubt nervous as they watch the aftermath of the Tunisian uprising play out across the Middle East. During what academic Malcolm Kerr referred to as the "Arab Cold War," former Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser envisioned that these governments would finally throw off the shackles of colonialism and become representative of their people's wishes. (In a great moment of historical irony, Ben Ali fled Tunisia on what would have been Nasser's 93rd birthday.) But today, a quick scan through the list of countries inspired by his ideas -- from Yemen to Egypt, Iraq to Libya --reveals a who's who list of failed and autocratic states in the Middle East.
As the end of his reign quickly approached this week, Tunisia's President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali attempted to conjure the spirit that buoyed his government in the months after he seized power more than 20 years ago.
In a televised address to the country on Jan. 12, Ben Ali -- speaking in colloquial Arabic and in unusually humble tones -- pledged not to run for reelection when his current term ends in 2014 and to usher in a gentler phase of governance in the meantime.
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The reign of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali is over. His government's response to the steadily growing unrest in the country was marked by successive tactical retreats: On Jan. 12, he declared his intention to immediately do away with restrictions on the press and step down once his term expires in 2014. When that concession only emboldened the protesters further, he responded on Jan. 14 by sacking his government and announcing that new elections would be held in six months. And now, the latest news suggests that the military has stepped in to remove Ben Ali from power and the president has fled the country.
Given the historical ineffectiveness of Arab publics to effect real change in their governments and the Tunisian regime's reputation as perhaps the most repressive police state in the region, the events of the past week are nothing short of remarkable. And while reports and analyses have focused on the extraordinary nature of the protests, it is equally important to consider what has been missing -- namely, Islamists.
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When we launched our state-building plan for Palestine in August 2009, many dismissed it as an exercise in eggheadedness, extraordinary optimism, a dream. But here we are, feeling exceptionally, extremely validated by the scorecard so far: We have completed more than 1,500 projects, including the establishment of dozens of new schools, clinics, and housing projects and the construction of new roads throughout Palestine.
Building a Palestinian state was never intended to replace the political process, but to reinforce, and benefit, from it. The idea was to impart a sense of possibility about what might happen, what we would want to see happen: an end to the Israeli occupation and an opportunity for Palestinians to be able to live as free people in a country of our own.
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Marcus Bleasdale, a distinguished war photographer, has documented the scars of conflict in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kashmir, and Nepal -- places where years or decades of war have left local populations taking shelter in bombed-out buildings or makeshift dwellings, with little food or safe water. What he found when he visited Djibouti, a small, little-known country on the Horn of Africa, felt eerily familiar. Only this time, the deprivation was not the result of war, but of poverty; as Bleasdale says: "The conditions make it almost feel like a conflict zone."
What will be the image that frames the news reporting of June 29's White House meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? Surely not another bow toward the desert monarch, as caught on video at the London G-20 meeting in April 2009. Or what hypercritics saw as a further deferential bob in Riyadh last June, when the president leaned forward so the shorter king could confer on him the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit, a chunky necklace that Obama took off within seconds.
Of course, what the White House staff most wants to avoid is any image as awkward as the shot of President George W. Bush and then Crown Prince Abdullah walking arm in arm at the start of a meeting at Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch in April 2002. The shot was memorialized by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11 and, with Moore himself superimposed in place of Abdullah, became the poster for the movie, plastered on thousands of theater walls across the United States.
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The Arab world's fire-breathing guerrillas and military despots get all the attention. But the men who run the region's day-to-day affairs are a different breed. Across the Middle East over the last decade, a new class of technocrats -- all in their 40s and 50s, with advanced degrees in law and economics, many from Western universities, and backed by powerful patrons -- has risen to power in governments from Syria to Egypt to Palestine, resolutely focused on tackling the mundane problems affecting their societies. And they are achieving surprising success by adhering to three relatively simple rules.
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In the world of Palestinian politics, the recent weeks have been a study in contrasts. The international media has trained its focus off the shores of Gaza, where the flotilla fiasco has generated dramatic images of dead civilians and battered Israeli soldiers.
But in Bethlehem, far away from the television cameras and breathless news reports, 2,000 Palestinian financiers also gathered recently at the second Palestine Investment Conference to quietly go about the business of building the economy of a viable Palestinian state.
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Members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) pledged $850 million dollars for future development in Darfur on Sunday in Cairo. Egypt and Turkey co-chaired the donor's conference--which aimed to jumpstart international commitment to long-term reconstruction and development in Darfur after seven years of conflict, mass displacement, and humanitarian crisis. Some countries making generous pledges willfully ignored the ongoing security challenges and unresolved conflict between the Darfuri rebels and the Sudanese government. In this way, the OIC--like the League of Arab States in its response to the Darfur crisis--sought to help the people of Darfur without addressing those most responsible for their deplorable conditions.
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