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Netanyahu looks to gain in US elections

The Israeli prime minister tried in his visit to Washington this month to capitalise on the victory of the Republican Party and pro-Israeli candidates in the last mid-term congressional elections, wrote Sobhi Ghandour, the executive director of the Washington-based Al Hewar Centre for Arab Culture and Dialogue, in a column for the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried in his visit to Washington this month to capitalise on the victory of the Republican Party and pro-Israeli candidates in the last mid-term congressional elections, wrote Sobhi Ghandour, the executive director of the Washington-based Al Hewar Centre for Arab Culture and Dialogue, in a column for the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan.

Far removed from the Palestinian issue, the top item on Mr Netanyahu's agenda is to revive his own plan for the Middle East, which, at this stage, is predicated on escalating military tension with Iran.

"Netanyahu's statements advocating a military option against Iran were meant to pre-empt two milestones coming up later this month: the six-party talks with Iran and the [possible resumption of the] peace talks with the Palestinians; the two issues the current US administration has been trying to push forward, against the priorities of the Netanyahu government," Mr Ghandour said.

Military escalation with Iran will serve a number of Israel's purposes, he wrote. First, it would be a waiver on all potential Israeli commitments to the rights of the Palestinians. Second, military action against Iran would create conflicts within, and among, a number of Arab states. Third, dragging the US into that conflict will deepen Washington's need for Israel in the region.


Credibility of Bush memoirs in doubt

British officials have joined the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, in refuting the "allegations" that the former US president, George W Bush, reportedly made in his recently published book Decisive Points, according to Zouhir Qoseibati, the managing editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

The Germans and the British agreed that Mr Bush "did not say the truth" in his memoirs regarding the war on Iraq and terrorism.

If Mr Schroeder's reply implied that Mr Bush's memoirs were misleading when they claimed German support in the war on Iraq, the British newspaper The Guardian, for its part, attributed to British officials statements rebutting Mr Bush's claim that he was behind foiling attack plots targeting London, the editor said.

"The credibility of these memoirs is on a downward slide already, making them unusable as a reference for documentation … Bush defends the US forces' liberation of Iraq and the wisdom behind ousting Saddam only to later express his disappointment at not finding the hard evidence to 'legitimise' the Iraq invasion."

Mr Bush purports in his book that America has become safer after Saddam was overthrown, which facts on the ground keep contesting. When he rejoices at the "freedom of 25 million Iraqis", Mr Bush must keep in mind the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who are no more, in the good name of freedom.


Indonesia balances US and China diplomacy

A handful of hours before the US president Barack Obama arrived in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, flying in from India, an official Chinese delegation was sealing deals worth $6.6 billion in infrastructure projects to be rolled out in the host country, according to Mazen Hammad, a columnist with the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

"Such a deal presents a challenge to the Obama administration, especially considering its 'suspicious' timing," the writer said.

"And despite Mr Obama's declaration in Jakarta that the US was not interested in containing China, his blessing to India's efforts to gain a permanent seat in the Security Council seems to contradict that. It rather proves that the goal behind the US's closeness to India … is to face up to China by weaving alliances with Beijing's regional competitors."

Indonesia's ancient misgivings about China did not prevent Beijing from opening up a number of economic, diplomatic and military alleys into the Asian archipelago. In the meantime, Indonesia is consciously opening up to China. As an Indonesian former defence minister put it: Indonesia can sail peacefully through the tides of US-Chinese competition.

Meanwhile, favoured by geographical proximity, China is strengthening its relations with Indonesia in such a way as to push the US to the margin.


Saudi Arabia prepared for attack on the Haj

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not allow any harm to befall the pilgrims coming to Mecca for Haj, said Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the second deputy of the Saudi prime minister and the minister of interior, according to the London-based newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

"We hope that nothing happens that should threaten the safety of the Haj pilgrims," Prince Nayef declared in the annual Haj press conference held on Wednesday, noting that there is ongoing top-level security cooperation between his country and Yemen.

"We do hope that [Yemen] will be able to eradicate al Qa'eda from its roots that now exist in the country. And, we stand by the Yemeni leadership, without hesitation, for what's critical to us is also critical to Yemen, and what befalls Yemen befalls us as well," Prince Nayef said.

Asked whether al Qa'eda may target the Haj pilgrims this year, the Saudi official replied: "We don't rule out any attempt from them to disrupt the smooth progression of Haj; so it stands as a possibility, but the security forces are prepared for it."

Earlier this month the Saudi authorities have announced that the Haj season this year will start on November 14. There is a 20 per cent increase in the number of pilgrims registered for Haj this year, Prince Nayef noted.


* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi


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