Walid Salem addresses the issue of whether Islam as a religion is compatible with the establishment of democracy. Salem believes that it is, and points out that there are hundreds of moderate Islamic groups open to the ideas of peace, democracy, and modernization operating within the Middle East. The West must find a way to incorporate these groups into an alliance against terrorism and so help to instill the values of democracy in the Middle East.
Ricardo Israel Z. discusses the differences between past conflicts of a more political nature in the Middle East, and the current purely military one. In Israel Z.’s opinion, Israel‘s will be unable of achieving its objectives of neutralizing Hamas and Hezbollah. And while innocent civilians in Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine suffer, Iran and Syria will be the ones to benefit most from the conflict.
Martin Varsavsky analyzes the current war between Israel and Lebanon labeling it a distraction strategy on the part of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In Varsavsky‘s opinion, Ahmadinejad used his influence with Hezbollah to create a war and divert attention away from his nuclear aims. Varsavsky identifies three possible outcomes for the current conflict: either Israel succeeds in drawing UN troops to police the Israel–Lebanon border, Lebanon turns into a second Iraq, or Israel and the United States decide to wage war on Iran. No matter what the outcome, Varsavsky reminds us, those who will suffer the most in this conflict will be the civilians.
Walid Salem lays bear the rhetoric on both sides of the Israel–Lebanon war, claiming that despite the confusion and emotion built up over decades of conflict, it is possible to find a solution for peace. In Salem‘s opinion, Israel must withdraw from the Shebaa Farms and release its Lebanese prisoners, and Hezbollah must recognize Israel, disarm and integrate into the Lebanese army, and promise to uphold a lasting peace on its borders with Israel. The most important way to sort through all of the rhetoric and propaganda on both sides, Salem points out, is to view your enemy as human. Only then can the healing necessary for peace take place.
By Arshin Adib-Moghaddam (for Safe Democracy)
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam explains how Iran has developed a multilateral strategy to enhance the diplomatic bargaining power of the Ahmadinejad administration. In Adib-Moghaddam‘s opinion, given Iran‘s defiant international stance and widespread influence, resolving the nuclear crisis will depend on a realistic assessment of Iran‘s role in world politics.
Mohammad Darawashe describes what life is like as an Arab Israeli living in Northern Israel during war. Hezbollah does not discriminate between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis in its bombings, and for Darawashe and his family, the Katyusha rocket attacks have become routine. Yet, despite the equal dangers that Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis share in the North of Israel, Jewish towns are better equipped to defend themselves against missile attacks, making Darawashe feel that Arabs are being treated as second rate citizens by the Israeli government. Maybe it is too early to point the finger –states–, but one thing I know for sure is how to sympathize with the innocent civilians who are dying because of this ridiculous show of power.
George Irani discusses the impotence of the United States and Israel before the growing threat of a more powerful Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. In Irani‘s opinion, Iran and Syria have set out to prove their power by urging Hezbollah into open war with Israel. As the cycle of vengeance, violence, and misunderstanding continues, Iran‘s power grows, and the Israeli–US alliance finds itself incapable of handling its war against what it calls the Axis of Evil. A difficult time lies ahead for the Middle East.
In Mario Sznajder‘s view, the current Israeli policy of not negotiating with terrorists is completely irrational, and is leaving both sides with heavy losses. Seeing as how a military solution would only perpetuate the cycle, Sznajder believes that the only way to end the violence wracking the Middle East is to open careful negotiations between both sides with the help and guidance of Egypt. The Egyptians have been doing considerable work in order to liberate Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas, and to end the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. Let Olmert believe what he wants, the rest of the world recognizes that negotiation is the only real way for Israel and Palestine to put an end to violence once and for all.
George E. Irani analyzes previous conflicts in the Middle East emphasizing the power that Syria holds in influencing Israeli-Palestinian relations. Irani views Syria as a possible instigator for the violent actions of Hamas, and the Bashar Assad regime as a major source of conflict in Palestine. The coming days will be important in determining how the delicate balance of power in the Middle East plays out. Irani explains the complex relationship between Ehud Olmert, Bashar Assad and Hamas.