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Elections and the future Israeli government

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Today, April 16, 2020, the negotiations between Gantz, former IDF Chief of Staff – who had been entrusted by the old Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin, with the task of forming a government – and the current Prime Minister Netanyahu have broken off.

In the last elections held on March 2, 2020, Netanyahu’s Likud won 36 seats, while the political List led by Gantz obtained 33seats.

At least until yesterday night, the only possibility was to accept – as, in fact, happened – a generic national unity government between Gantz’s Party, Hosen L’Yisrael (literally “Israel’s Resilience Party”), and Netanyahu’s Likud. A pact with a two-year “rotation” between the two Prime Ministers and the two Parties.

Both politicians tentatively agreed to rotate as Prime Minister, with Netanyahu serving for half of the full term, i.e. two years, and then Gantz serving for the remaining term. In the interim period, Gantz would be Foreign or Defence Minister, or he would anyway have a very important post.

Meanwhile Gantz, who was also Speaker of the Knesset, would give up the post of successor to the previous Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, to sit in the “national unity” government formed between his party and the Likud.

 Initially, the offers made by the Likud leader for a national unity government were accepted only cum grano salis by Gantz, who believed that a national unity government was particularly necessary to coordinate the actions to fight against the COVID-19 epidemics.

  It should obviously be added that, in such a sensitive political situation, many doubts are emerging also on the partners’ mutual reliability or on the solidity of their Parliamentary groups that could possibly break apart, in the Likud’s case, if Netanyahu pressed too much for avoiding the investigations and trial on charges of corruption regarding him – which is, in any case, an unavoidable issue in the negotiations between the two Parties – or if Gantz pushed too much for an agreement with the Likud, whatever it takes – a policy line that might displease a large part of his Party and his Parliamentary alliances.

 Therefore, a new general election is highly likely in Israel and we will see what the prospects are for the various Parties.

Hence what are the prospects, as they have been analysed by many Israeli politics experts?

 There is, initially, the prospect of a government with the Likud alone, which, however, has only 58 votes available, with at least 62 members of the Knesset who will never vote for it. Moreover, 72% of Israeli voters think that the issue of Netanyahu’s trial is fundamental to determine the next Parliament’s complexion.

 Any defectors? It is always likely, when the government sirens begin to sing their melodious and irresistible song.

 The 11 opposition parties, however, are united by deep dislike for the Likud leader.

 Israel’s Basic Laws also enable the potential Prime Minister to have not an absolute, but a relative majority.

 Netanyahu has 58 sure votes available, but abstentions (and only them are enough) could even lead him to a possible, but knife-edge majority.

 There is also the possibility – already tested in the past, but that we believe now remote – of a coalition government between the two major parties, namely the Likud and Gantz’s Israeli Resilience Party.

On the very night of the March elections, the Hosen L’Ysraelleader rejected the idea of an alliance with Netanyahu, demanding that the Prime Minister stood trial. As we all know, however, things went otherwise.

 There would also be the possibility of a Likud-Kahol-Lavan government, the “Blue and White” political alliance between Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh AtidParty (literally “There is a Future”) and former Finance Minister in Netanyahu’s government from 2013 to 2014.

With a government led by Netanyahu. The “Blue and White” alliance is certainly linked to the majority party of Benny Gantz, but there are also Yesh Atidled by Yair Lapid and Telem (Tnua Leumit Mamlakhtit, literally the “National Statesman-like Movement”), a movement in remembrance of a truly great Israeli military leader and politician, my old friend Moshe Dayan.

 Another possibility – if there are no elections, which are ever terribly closer after last night’s failed agreement – is a government that could be a “broad-based coalition government” that we in Italy know all too well.

 The idea was put forward by Gantz, certainly to weaken the Likud and its leader-Premier (since 11 years) and place them in a sort of “safety belt” basically favourable to the “Blue and White” political coalition.

The idea, however, was not liked by Shas, an old party founded in 1984 and representing the Sephardic, Haredi and Mizrahi Jews, nor by the United Torah Judaism Party, a traditional ally of the Likud. Hence, for the time being, this option is not feasible.

Gantz, however, could form his minority government with his “Blue and White” coalition (33 seats) and with Yisrael Beitenu, (literally “Israel our Home”) a right-wing and anti-Islamic party born to oppose religious Zionism.

Yisrael Beitenu has currently seven seats in the Knesset.

A probably very soft participation of some Arab parliamentarians in the Knesset may even be currently possible.

Gantz could even play the card of a minority government, according to the old Israeli tradition, which has always seen – with one single brief exception – governments with an absolute majority of Parliamentary votes.

 In fact, the opposition to Netanyahu has a 62 to 58 majority in the Knesset.

 The only party excluded from this possible government complexion would predictably be Yisrael Beitenu, but there is also the possibility that even a part of the Likud move away from “Bibi” Netanyahu.

 There are no explicit signs of this split yet, but some important Israeli newspapers are talking about this possibility.

Certainly for Gantz there would also be Yamina, the right-wing political alliance led by Naftali Bennett, which has 6 seats only.

Shas and the other religious party will certainly not break their pact with Netanyahu and they will also agree with the Israel Beitenu leader, Liebermann, who – indeed – also said he no longer wants to deal with religious parties.

Hence currently there are not the numbers for a minority government led by Gantz. This government, however, could be formed if Netanyahu were to give up power and release the full potential of Likud’s current alliances.

 The current Prime Minister, however, has two problems: firstly, to remain Prime Minister when the trial concerning him begins, possibly thinking that his role could influence or intimidate the judges. Therefore Gantz has been forced to accept a role as Prime Minister after Netanyahu two-year Premiership – and I believe this suits him.

Secondly, the Likud leader also wants the government to be formed anyway and as soon as possible, which could be a good card even in the hands of Gantz and his “Blue and White” alliance.

On the other hand, however, the Likud and its Prime Minister do not absolutely want a minority government led by Gantz that would relegate them to the opposition, and would be personally dangerous for Netanyahu.

 What if there were a government led neither by Benny Gantz nor by “Bibi” Netanyahu?

 In other words, the Likud leader could tell the leader of the “Blue and White” coalition that his party is still the most voted and stable in the Knesset and he could assign the Premiership to another figure, but only from his own party, thus stopping the two-year rotation mechanism and proposing to Gantz to merely take up an “important” post in the next government, as one of the many allies of the coalition led by him.

Off the record, Gantz has never really believed in a normal premiership rotation after the first two years of the “great coalition” government between the “Blue and White” alliance and the Likud.He has probably never trusted Netanyahu – maybe not even on a personal level – but, if the current Prime Minister were condemned in Court, his chances to decide the “new” Likud Prime Minister and the rest of his government team would be very low.

 Netanyahu, however, has never named a successor, nor has he ever indicated any of his Cabinet Ministers as primus inter pares in the Likud Party and in governments.

 There is also the possibility that Netanyahu himself may sign an agreement with the Court – a deal whereby he should resign as Prime Minister, in exchange for a much “softer” judgment than expected, which would enable him to run for the premiership in future governments and would leave him with a lot of money spared, instead of paying high fees to his lawyers.

Currently no one can predict the outcome, but nothing is impossible in such a complex context as Israeli politics.

What about a new election, which is ever more likely after last night’s choices?

 The Central Elections Committee has already begun preparations for the next elections, which should be held on September 6.

 The State is going ahead with last year’s spending forecasts – hence many of the Administration’s semi-private activities must proceed with extra-budgetary funds, especially in the Covid-19 emergency phase which, as is said in Israel, has so far led to an immediate 23% increase in public costs.

 A network of private support that is already in crisis, which could cause difficulties for the religious parties, which are loyal allies of Netanyahu’s government.

 The only one who could be happy with new elections is Netanyahu, who would remain in power for further key months, and could even hope for an ope legis delay in his trial.

A particularly complex factor in the Israeli political system is its wide range of parties.

Nine of the eleven political Lists and real Parties are represented in the Knesset and the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is already a very serious matter.

In 2019 the unemployed people were approximately 157,000, but it is currently estimated that they are already half a million.

 Israel has a very large current account and balance of payments surplus, as well as very large foreign currency reserves and a public debt that is still 60% of GDP. Its banking system has a big amount of capital and liquidity available.

 Therefore, the time of financial and economic stability in the Covid-19 crisis phase is very long, certainly longer than in any other EU country. However, a strategic and another strictly economic consideration need to be made.

 Firstly, from a geopolitical viewpoint, the situation in Syria and in the Lebanon could worsen, and a country living on a monthly 1/12 of the 2019 budget liquidity cannot afford exceptional military spending, even now that it would be needed.

The other Arab and Islamic countries, although facing a severe Covid-19 crisis, can still pour social anger into an external enemy.

 Secondly, if the political crisis were to reoccur after the elections of September 6, the instability of the Israeli government would become an important variable in the Iranian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Egyptian strategic equation.

In any case, even though all these countries are facing the Covid-19 crisis, it would not be an easy situation for Israel. And a sequence of targeted attacks, inside and outside the Jewish State, would have to be taken into account.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Palestine Ends All Agreements with Israel and the United States

Nikolay Plotnikov

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On May 19, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), declared an end to all agreements, including security agreements, with Israel and the United States. On May 22, Palestinian security forces withdrew from the East Jerusalem area.

The reason for this decision was Israel’s claims to annex about 30 per cent of the territories in the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria. This was announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 10 during the presentation of his government to the Knesset. According to him, the time has come to apply Israeli law to these territories and “write another glorified chapter in the history of Zionism.”

It should be noted that the territories mentioned are the Palestinian territories in West Bank captured by Israel during the six-day war of 1967. The United Nations defines these territories as occupied. According to UN General Assembly Resolution No. 181, they are “the area of the proposed Arab State.”

Israel considers these territories disputed. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, banning to move the civilian population into the occupied territory, to date, Israel has created about 140 settlements in West Bank with approximately 500,000 people living there. From the point of view of international law, they are not part of Israel. Another 200,000 Israelis moved to the occupied East Jerusalem.

The vote on extending Israeli sovereignty to the occupied Palestinian territories may take place on July 1. In this effort, Israel is actively supported by the United States, as the annexation of territories in West Bank is part of the so-called “deal of the century” formally unveiled by Donald Trump on January 28, 2020. He is convinced that the establishment of Israeli sovereignty over territories in West Bank is fully consistent with his personal peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that annexing territories in West Bank is “ultimately Israel’s decision to make,” and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the main supporter of Israeli settlements, is confident that Washington will recognize this move.

Netanyahu’s plan is not widely supported by the Israeli society. If the majority of Israeli Knesset members are ready to support it, a rather significant group of former senior military and special services officers are against it. For instance, 220 retired Israeli generals and admirals (including Gadi Shamni, a retired general in the Israel Defense Forces; Tamir Pardo, former Director of the Mossad; and Ami Ayalon, former director of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service) made a collective statement, warning that the annexation would threaten Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, anger allies in the Gulf and undermine the Palestinian authorities collaborating with Israel on important security issues. The generals were supported by 149 prominent American-Jewish leaders and 11 members of the U.S. Congress.

Judging by opinion polls, a significant part of Israeli society is of the same opinion. Many Israeli human rights organizations, including such respectable ones as B’Tselem and Yesh Din, have spoken out against the proposed annexation.

Egypt, a major regional player and mediator between Israel and Hamas, is coordinating with Israel in its fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda in Sinai. The annexation of the West Bank can spark negative reactions from the Egyptian population, which will force President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to reconsider relations with Israel.

The situation with Jordan is more complicated, with a significant number of Palestinians living there. They will get involved if Israel begins to implement its plans. This will lead to even greater radicalization and will inevitably provoke mass protests. The Kingdom of Jordan, facing difficult economic problems exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, will be confronted with enormous challenges. Amman is well aware of this.

For many years, the Jordan-Israel border was the safest border for Tel Aviv. The situation may change after July 1, as warned of by Jordan’s King Abdullah II. On May 15, in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Abdullah II warned that if Israel really does move to change the borders, it would set off a massive conflict with Jordan.

It is unlikely that this time the Gulf monarchies, collaborating with Israel against Iran in recent years, won’t get involved (for example, Saudi Arabia, exchanging intelligence with Israeli intelligence services). They have known about Netanyahu’s plans for West Bank for a long time, now the public in these countries will probably have a negative reaction to the annexation and require actions from the authorities.

The United Nations and the European Union cautioned against the West Bank annexation. Their representatives, in particular, Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned that this would be a devastating blow to the two-State solution for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, would slam the door on fresh negotiations and threaten efforts to advance regional and international peace.

According to Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union, Brussels does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank. However, this is his personal opinion and not the official position of the EU. The Union does not have a single position on what needs to be done now. Some EU member states, such as Hungary and Austria, believe that this is not the right time for such statements. Ireland, Norway, and Luxembourg, on the contrary, believe that it is necessary to make a statement and take measures against Israel if it does not abandon its plans.

France and Germany expressed their disagreement with Netanyahu’s intentions to extend Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements in West Bank. They called on the Israeli authorities to refrain from any unilateral measures that would lead to the annexation of all or part of the Palestinian territories. Given that Borrell’s statement is personal, and the demarches by Paris and Berlin are more like wasting breath, it is unlikely that the EU will move from words to some decisive action against Israel, like imposing sanctions. Moreover, the United States will not allow this.

Turkey, as expected, harshly criticized Netanyahu’s intentions. Ankara warned that the country would always stand by the brotherly Palestinian people.

The Church expressed its utmost concern. On May 7, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Holy Land Churches published a statement on Israeli unilateral annexation plans, “which would bring about the loss of any remaining hope for the success of the peace process.” Church leaders urged the Palestine Liberation Organization, which they called “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” to resolve all internal and factional conflicts so it could present a united front “dedicated to achieving peace and the building of a viable state that is founded upon pluralism and democratic values.” They also called on the UN, the United States, Russia, and the European Union to respond to annexation plans.

The League of Arab States is also making attempts to increase the efforts to oppose Netanyahu’s plans. The Arab League condemned Israel, saying that the implementation of plans to annex any part of the Palestinian territories would “represent a new war crime” against the Palestinians. In late April, in the Arab League Council online extraordinary meeting at the ministerial level, under the chairmanship of Egypt, a joint statement was made to support the Palestinians and Jordan, rejecting the Israeli unilateral moves.

An ambiguous position was taken by Canada. When the people of Crimea decided to join the Russian Federation following to the results of the referendum, official Ottawa was restless about the alleged Russian annexation and not only joined the economic and political sanctions of the West against Moscow and certain Russian politicians and entrepreneurs, but also sent its military instructors and started to provide material and technical support to the Ukrainian army. The country, thus, became directly involved in the civil war in Donbass. Now the Canadian government is abstaining from making public statements condemning Netanyahu’s intentions, let alone imposing practical sanctions.

There is little time left until the moment of truth on July 1. Much depends on how the international community and the Arab world behave. The complicit silence in the face of the situation, as was the case with Israel’s recent annexation of the Golan Heights, might bring about unexpected consequences for the entire Middle East. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki cautioned against the annexation, saying it would “end the two-state solution” and will “turn the battle from a political one to an endless religious war.”

Judging by the statement of Mahmoud Abbas, there is still hope. According to him, Palestinians are ready to return to the negotiating table with Israel, but with the mediation of a third party.

Some experts believe that under the prevailing conditions, the Middle East Quartet – the United Nations, the United States, Russia, and the European Union, could serve as a mediator. However, there are some factors that can obstruct such work.

The European Union is divided at this point. Its members should first decide what they want to achieve and develop an action strategy.

Prior to the U.S. presidential election, the current administration will not refuse the well-publicized “deal of the century.” It is part of the election campaign of Donald Trump, who is extremely interested in the lack of international consensus on measures to influence Israel. In addition, the American President probably takes into account the fact that the Arab world is now focused on internal problems and paralyzed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Russia emphasized its willingness, together with other participants of the Middle East Quartet, to encourage talks between Israel and Palestine and “to continue to facilitate the resumption of the peace process via direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians within a generally recognized international legal framework.” On May 22, by the initiative of the Palestinian side, Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, had a telephone conversation with Hussein al-Sheikh, Fatah Central Committee member, who informed Mr Bogdanov about the latest decisions by the Palestinian leadership regarding relations with Israel. Russia reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to supporting the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the establishment of an independent state within the 1967 lines with its capital in East Jerusalem, living peacefully and maintaining neighborly relations with Israel. The Special Presidential Representative of the Russian Federation pointed out that the proposal by Russia’s leadership to hold a face-to-face meeting between President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow without any preconditions remained on the table.

At the same time, If Palestine is ready for negotiations, Benjamin Netanyahu might not be. In Israel, many of his political opponents believe that discussions around the annexation of part of the West Bank and COVID-19 are the only way for him to stay in politics and evade prosecution for corruption and breach of trust, at least for the next few months. And the Prime Minister is unlikely to refuse it.

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Prospects of normalization grim in Libya

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Analysts say that Libya is one of the most important crisis to watch for in 2020 because of the involvement of Russia and Turkey. More importantly, the plight of the Libyans after almost 10 years of civil war cannot be ignored.

Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO military alliance recently said in an interview that Turkey remains an important ally and NATO is ready to support GNA increasing the possibility of Russia and NATO locking horns.

Eight years after Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi eliminated his country’s weapons of mass destruction the colonel found himself on the wrong side of the gun, when he was overthrown and killed in 2011 submerging the country in a civil war.

NATO members led by Britain and France supported the so-called revolution by airstrikes – then watched as the country sank into chaos. Barrack Obama said leaving Libya without a plan after Gaddafi was the “biggest mistake” of his presidency.

There are fears that the global Covid-19 pandemic could devastate the war-torn Libya, where a decade long conflict has ravaged key infrastructure and created dire medical shortages.

Today the country is divided into two factions backed by foreign powers struggling to put the country together.

On the one side, there is the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) under Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj in Tripoli supported by Turkey, Qatar, and Italy. Turkey has deployed Syrian mercenaries.

Tripoli has been under siege by Libyan National Army (LNA) headed by Khalifa Haftar, who started his offensive on Tripoli in April 2019. The offensive was launched while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Tripoli to prepare for a peace conference.

Unsuccessful in taking Tripoli, Haftar has laid a siege on the capital city for the last four months.

The 76-year-old Libyan-born commander Haftar is supported by Russia, Egypt, France, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser extent Israel. Russia has sent mercenaries.

The Wall Street reported that prior to his April offensive on Tripoli, Haftar was in Riyadh where Saudis gave him tens of millions of dollars. 

In his dominion, Haftar is known as “the marshal”, and is the military ruler of eastern Libya, with Benghazi as his stronghold. He has promised to build a stable, democratic, and secular Libya but the regions in his control are without any law and order and corruption abounds.

There were several summits by international community to put an end to the Libyan strife before Covid-19 pandemic sidelined the Libyan crisis.

The last summit was called the Berlin Conference was held on January 19. Haftar and al-Sarraj didn’t even meet face to face and the summit failed to yield results.

China has remained neutral in this conflict. Under the Gaddafi regime, China engaged in various infrastructure activities with 35,000 Chinese laborers working across 50 projects, ranging from residential and railway construction to telecommunications and hydropower ventures. The year leading to Gaddafi’s overthrow, Libya was providing three percent of China’s crude oil supply, constituting roughly 150,000 barrels a day. All of China’s top state oil firms – CNPC, Sinopec Group, and CNOOC – had had standing infrastructure projects in Libya.

In the outbreak of protests in 2011, China sought to preserve economic ties with Libya and rejected the NATO-led military intervention. China abstained at the UN Security Council vote to authorize military intervention.

In late 2015, the GNA emerged as the new political authority, the product of negotiations brokered by the United Nations and backed by China.

Although many Chinese projects were suspended in Libya and bilateral trade decreased by 57 percent, China’s neutrality paved the way for Beijing to stand in good stead with GNA for years to come.

Immigrants crisis

Home to an estimated 654,000 migrants – more than 48,000 of them registered asylum seekers or refugees – many of them cramped conditions with little access to healthcare amidst the pandemic. An outbreak can be catastrophic.

Many live on transfers from friends and family and UNHCR handouts. With work hard to find many hope to proceed with their journey to Europe. Smugglers have put hundreds and thousands of them in boats and sent them across the Mediterranean to Italy.

UNHCR has been evacuating some of the most vulnerable refugees until airspace was shut in early April.

On May 13, WHO issued a joint statement on Libya emphasizing that the entire population of the country, especially some 400,000 Libyans that have been displaced – about half of them within the past year, since the attack on Tripoli — are at risk of Covid-19 pandemic.

The statement reported everyday challenges that humanitarian missions and workers face to carry on with their mission. The UN verified 113 cases of grave violations, including killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools, and health facilities.

The report points out that as of May 13, there were 64 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including three deaths, in different parts of the country. This shows transmission of the disease is taking place and the risk of further escalation of outbreak is very high.

The report talks about food security and latest assessments show that most cities are facing shortages of basic food items coupled with an increase in prices, urging all parties to protect the water supply facilities that have been deliberately targeted.

“We look forward with anticipation to the pledged financial support to the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya, as announced by the GNA,” WHO statement said.

Oil production

Oil reserves in Libya are the largest in Africa with 46.4 billion barrels as of 2010. Much of Libya’s oil wealth is located in the east but the revenues are channeled through Tripoli-based state oil firm National Oil Corporation (NOC), which says it serves the whole country and stays out of its factional conflicts.

Prior to the 2011 Libyan civil war, Libya produced over 1.5 million barrels a day. As a result of a blockade of export terminals by LNA by February of this year oil production dropped to 200,000 barrels a day reports Bloomberg. NOC said the North African state’s current level of production is at 91,221 barrels per day as of March 17.

In order to choke GNA from the crucial crude export revenue, the LNA seized Libya’s export terminals and ports in the east in mid-January. The blockade has cost Libya some $560 million, Petroleum Economist reported in January. 

According to NOC, the blockade has plunged production from around 1.2 million barrels a day, and added losses had surpassed four billion dollars by April 15.

Conflict wages

In the last couple of weeks, significant developments have been happening in the Libyan civil war.

In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO military alliance said that Turkey remains an important ally and NATO is ready to support GNA. He stressed NATO is supporting UN’s efforts for a peaceful solutions to conflicts both in Libya and Syria.

Meanwhile, the independent English language Tripoli-based Libyan Express reported that Haftar launched a rocket attack Thursday on Tripoli, hitting the Central Hospital on other downtown areas. 

Tripoli Central Hospital and some civilian areas were targeted. GNA’s Health Ministry said 14 civilians were injured, adding that the hospital will not be able to serve people due to the attack pointing out what a massive setback was amid the outbreak of Coronavirus.

Libyan military forces said Monday that the Libyan army struck forces loyal to Haftar in Al-Watiya airbase in the southwest of Tripoli during the government-led Operation Volcano of Rage.

LNA has intensified attacks on civilians since the beginning of May as GNA made substantial military progress in the offensive in the western part of Tripoli. Armed drones provided by Turkey conducted effective attacks against the LNA.

Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashaghe has accused Haftar’s forces had used chemical weapons on the Salah Al-Deen front, south of Tripoli. The accusations were confirmed by Canadian journalist Amru Saleheddine, who found several government soldiers with symptoms to those of epilepsy, usually caused by nerve gas.

The conflict in Libya is backed by foreign actors with different objectives and priorities. Any emerging power configuration will be fragile unless the external actors come to a shared understanding.

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Internationalization of Higher Education in the GCC Countries

Ivan Bocharov

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Education is an important area of social life, shaping the intellectual and cultural state of society. In the context of globalization, the challenges of time give rise to new trends in it, one of which is internationalization. This process has already swept the whole world, including Arab countries. Some of them, especially the Gulf states, nowadays are actively competing with other exporters of educational services in the world market.

The development paths of higher education in the Arab Gulf countries were analyzed in a scientific article «Internationalization and the Changing Paradigm of Higher Education in the GCC Countries», as well as measures were taken to improve the quality of education and its regional integration. The author of the scientific work is Julie Vardhan, Assistant Professor at the School of Business, Manipal University. The work is based on an analysis of 167 university sites of the countries of the region and some scientific works devoted to the internationalization of higher education, integration, and demographic processes in the GCC countries. The analysis of Julie Vardhan is comprehensive. In addition to university sites, issues related to the history of the internationalization of education were analyzed, as well as data reflecting demographic trends in the GCC countries. These data allow to see the general picture of how the internationalization of higher education is developing in the Arab States of the Gulf.

According to the author’s definition, internationalization is the process of integration of international components into the country’s higher education system. Although universities have always developed international cooperation, globalization has created a new context for internationalization. Over the past decades, the number of educational institutions and students studying in them has sharply increased in the region.

Julie Vardhan divides the countries that compete among themselves in the educational services market into four groups. The first group includes the USA, UK, and Australia. In these countries are the best universities in the world, and English is their native language. The second group consists of Germany and France. German and French universities are trying to attract students from neighbouring countries, as well as those countries with which established strong sociocultural and historical ties. The third group includes Japan, Canada, and New Zealand. They attract from 75 thousand to 115 thousand international students per year. The fourth group consists of Malaysia, Singapore, and China. These countries have recently recognized the importance of global education, and now they are spending resources on the development of higher education to compete effectively in the global educational services market. According to the author, the GCC countries are also included in this group.

The main goal of the Gulf Cooperation Council is to develop integration processes and establish cooperation, including in the field of education. At the same time, the GCC countries face some problems associated with the development of advanced technologies. Recently, governments of member states have begun to pay more attention to the development of human capital to ensure sustainable economic growth. Educational and labour migration of knowledge workers directly affects the development of the country’s economy, and the Arab Gulf states are just interested in creating a knowledge economy.

For studying the electronic resources of educational institutions, the author used the method of content analysis. In particular, Julie Vardhan ascertained whether internationalization was mentioned on the university’s website by searching for the keywords «international», «global», «international partnerships», «international collaboration», «world-renowned faculty» and «diverse students, multicultural». Only one category is used in the study, in which the words mentioned above and phrases are combined, and it is the «phenomenon of internationalization». As part of the study, 167 university websites of the GCC countries were analyzed. Site analysis was limited to their English versions.

The author made a table that shows the growing trend in the number of universities in the region. Until the 1990s in most GCC countries, there were only one or two state universities. Since the early 2000s, a significant increase concerning the number of both state and private universities has been observed. This boost, according to Julie Vardhan, cannot be explained only by population growth. The focus on the development of human capital played a significant role in increasing the number of universities in the country of the region.

Most GCC countries have public and private institutions that establish partnerships with foreign universities. Besides, some international universities create their branches in the countries of the region. Among the 167 universities examined in this study, 103 educational institutions are private, 70 of them have established partnerships with foreign universities, or are their affiliates. In each of them, internationalization manifests itself in different ways. For example, Saudis often go abroad as part of academic mobility programs. At the same time, many students from other countries come to Saudi Arabia to study the basics of Islam at local universities. Thus, within the framework of internationalization, there are both import and export of education. The UAE and Qatar are states with a considerable number of branches of foreign universities, and the universities of Oman and Kuwait offer many double-degree programs.

One of the reasons for the growing demand for educational services from private universities and those universities that have established partnerships with educational institutions from other countries is the increasing number of youth. Another reason is that the Gulf Arab governments support internationalization and educational integration with other countries and foreign universities. Julie Vardhan outlines the following approaches to the internationalization of higher education, which are used by the governments of GCC member states. The first approach is the implementation of neoliberal reforms aimed at increasing the accessibility of higher education while compensating for the costs of consumers and the private sector. The second approach is to make changes to the curriculum to meet international standards. For example, Saudi Arabia, over the past years, has been trying to develop secular education, actively uses English to educate students, and also adopts the American system of education. The third approach is the establishment of extensive partnerships with foreign universities, affecting the international recognition of the prestige of education in the GCC countries.

The author acknowledges that the study has flaws. There is limited potential for the content analysis method. Julie Vardhan points out that the ability to analyze the content of Internet resources is limited by changing the nature of the data source. The content and structure of web pages can change quite quickly after the content analysis. She also notes that researchers should develop their coding scheme for the content analysis of university sites.

Despite some problems (for example, the commodification of education and the transformation of national identity), significant progress has been achieved in the internationalization of higher education in the GCC region in a short time. The region has great potential for further internationalization. The results of the study by Julie Vardhan help to trace the prospects for the internationalization of education in the framework of regional integration of learning. This work is of great scientific interest to anyone interested in the internationalization of higher education in the Gulf countries.

Studying several aspects of the internationalization of education at once prevented the author from concentrating on the electronic internationalization of university Internet resources. The methodology for researching university sites is not spelt out, and it does not specify how exactly the individual stages of content analysis should be implemented. Julie Vardhan believes that researchers should develop their coding scheme, which is the basis of the methodology. It is advisable to create universal and convenient tools for everyone to analyze the content of university sites so that every researcher of the internationalization of higher education can make the maximum contribution to their study. The question remains what difficulties the universities of the Arab countries of the region face in such internationalization. In this context, it is interesting to analyze which state initiatives in the field have been successful, and which experiences have not.

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