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The 35th Israeli government and its Ministers

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As many people know, the Israeli government was supposed to be formed after the elections of April 9, 2019, but Netanyahu himself failed to do so and the Knesset was dissolved again to prepare for further elections, which took place on September 17, 2019.

 Even after this second election there were not the political and numerical conditions to create a stable and homogeneous government majority and new elections were held on March 2, 2020.

 On April 20, 2020, an agreement was reached between Benny Gantz and Bibi Netanyahu, which led to the current government of national unity, which officially began to work on May 17, 2020.

As already said, based on the agreement with Benny Gantz, the Prime Minister is Netanyahu himself, who will be replaced by the current Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, in November 2021.

Gantz was Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) from 2011 to 2015 and later became Speaker of the Knesset from March 26 to May 17, 2020.

 He created his “Israel Resilience” Party in December 2018, based on an alliance with the centre-right group Telem, founded by former Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, and also with Yesh Atid, (literally “There is a Future”), a party founded in 2012 by YairLapid, thus creating the “Blue and White” alliance.

 The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development is Alon Schuster, from the “Blue and White” alliance.

 Son of a German and an Argentinean, he was born in Sderot, one of the most famous and oldest Kibbutzin Israel. He was later part of the Nahal Brigade and was wounded at war.

 The Nahal Brigade, which became autonomous in 1982, during the Lebanon War,is a particular structure in the IDF: it stems from a regular paratrooper battalion, but it is also formed by volunteers of the Zionist political movement Nahal, which represents a tradition combining social voluntarism, kibbutzlife and the Israeli military tradition, of which the kibbutz is an integral part (just think of the history of Palmach, for example).

 Schuster was a traditional member of the Labour Party (Ha Avoda), which is a socialist democratic, but above all a Zionist party – a political group born in 1968 from the merger of Mapai (literally “Workers’ Party of the Land of Israel”),Ahdut Ha Avoda, (literally “Labour Unity”), which is Ben Gurion’s old party, and Rafi (literally “Israeli Workers’ List”) founded by Ben Gurion in 1965.

In 1965 personalities such as Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, Chaim Herzog and Teddy Kollek followed the Founder of the State of Israel within Rafi.

Kollek, who was mayor of Jerusalem for several years, was a very important figure for the creation of the Israeli State, both publicly and with its covert operations in Europe and above all in Italy.

 Schuster joined the centrist “Blue and White” alliance in April 2019 and was elected to the Knesset.

 The Immigration Minister (also known as the Minister of Aliyah, (literally “Ascent”), i.e. the right of all Jews to return from the Diaspora to the Land of Israel), who more exactly defines herself as “Minister of Aliyah and Integration”, is Prima Tamano-Shata.

She is a Jewish lawyer, journalist and political activist born in Ethiopia.

At the end of March 2020, she left the Yesh Atid group to join the centrist “Blue and White” alliance.

Prima Tamano-Shata was born near Gondar, in the region of the Ahmara, the tribe that heroically followed the deeds of Amedeo Guillet, whom they called Kummandant Shaitan, namely the “Devil Commander”.

 The family of the future Minister arrived in Israel with “Operation Moses”, when the Ethiopian Jews (known as Beta Israel community or Falas has)were covertly evacuated from Sudan by the IDF during a civil war that caused a famine in 1984.

 The newly created Minister for Community Empowerment and Advancement”, i.e. the Ministry that deals with municipal and local administrations, is Orly Levy-Abekasis, who is member of the Gesher movement (literally “Bridge”) belonging to a centre-liberal area.

 The party was founded by Orly Levy-Abekasis’ father.

 The new Minister joined the Knesset in 2009 with the Israel Beitenu movement and again in 2019 she founded the aforementioned Gesher Party, which initially ran together with the Labour Party.

It should be recalled that her father was the Moroccan Foreign Minister, David Levy, who was also a personal friend of the Moroccan King.

Orly did her national service in the Israeli Air Force and later got a law degree at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. She now lives in the Mesilot Kibbutz.

The current Minister of Telecommunications, who is essential in a country like Israel, is Yoaz Hendel.

 He belongs to Derekh Eretzthat, based on European standards, can be considered a small centre-right movement. It was founded in March 2020 by Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel himself, after their leaving Telem, one of the components of the “Blue and White” alliance.

A military historian by training, he worked as a journalist and was the Chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies (ZTS), established in 2005, whose real goal is to draft a real Constitution for Israel.

The Institute deals much with demography, as also the other modern governments should do.

He was born to a father of Romanian Jewish descent and a mother of Romanian and Polish Jewish descent and grew up in the religious settlement of Elkana.

 He served in the Shayetet 13naval commando unit, one of the most important elite forces.

He was discharged after six years of service and remained active for several years in the Israeli security system and Prime Minister’s Office.

 He holds the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel in the Reserves where he serves each year.

Yaachov Litzman is the current Minister of Housing and Construction. He previously served as Minister of Health.

 He was born to two Polish survivors of the Holocaust in a German refugee camp. Later his family immigrated to Brooklyn and, at age 17, he immigrated to Israel with his parents.

 He is a Haredi and belongs to the “United Torah Judaism”, an alliance of Agudat Israel, which is traditionally linked to the movement of the same name in Upper Silesia, which is now more Hasidic than Haredi, although it has a long history as a non-Zionist movement of observant Jews.

The Minister of Culture and Sports is Hili Tropper, who belongs to the “Blue and White” alliance.

  Son of a Rabbi, he began his political career in the Labour Party. He also has long experience in educational and school matters and an effective personal relationship with Benny Gantz.

 David “Dudi” Amsalem, from the Likud Party, was appointed as Minister for Cyber and National Digital Matters.

His parents were immigrants from Morocco and he previously held the post of Minister of Telecommunications. During his IDF national service he was a tank commander in the Armoured Corps and later obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Business Administration from Bar-Ilan University.

He is Chairman of the Likud Party’s Jerusalem branch.

A”Blue and White” alliance member, Michael Biton, was chosen for the key post of Defence Minister.

He was born to parents who had immigrated from Morocco. He got a BA in Behavioural Studies and Hebrew Literature from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, as well as a MA in organizational leadership from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 Already elected as a candidate of Kadima – the old centrist and liberal party established in 2005 by Likud and Labour members who supported the unilateral plan of disengagement on the Arab issue, developed by Ariel Sharon -later Michael Biton formed a new political party, called Ahi Israel. Due to a leadership dispute, however, he quickly decided to leave the party and become member of the “Blue and White” alliance.

 The current Minister of Diaspora Affairs is Omer Yankelevitch, born Galitsky.

An attorney and civil rights activist, she is a member of the party formed by Benny Gantz and co-founder of the Just Begun Foundation, which sponsors social initiatives to help integrate peripheral and marginal populations in Israel.

Her father was a native of Lithuania and she received a Haredi education. At age 16 shetaught Hebrew and Judaism in Moscow and Ukraine.

 The Economy Ministry, which was merged with the Welfare Ministry in 1970, is currently led by Amir Peretz.

 A “historical” Labour member currently serving as leader of the Labour Party, he also served as Minister of Defence and Minister of Environmental Protection, as well heading the Histadrut union federation – born at the time of the British Mandate for Palestine – between 1995 and 2006..

After five years as mayor of Sderot, in 1999 he left the Labour Party to establish his own party, One Nation, also known as Am Ehad (literally, and more precisely, “One People”). In 2004 he merged it back into the Labour Party.

Following the 2006 elections, however, Peretz and his partially new Labour Party joined the Kadima-led coalition, which had been established in 2005 to support Ariel Sharon’s unilateral plan for disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Peretz served as Defence Minister in the Kadima-led coalition government.

During his tenure as Defence Minister he greatly supported the 2006 Lebanon War and, above all, approved the Iron Dome defence system. He was later defeated by Ehud Barak in another Labour leadership election and resigned from the Cabinet.

In 2012 he resigned from the Knesset after leaving the Labour Party to join the new party called Hatnua, (literally “the Movement”), belonging to the centrist and liberal-democratic area.

 In 2013 he ran with the Greens, who had previously merged with Hatnua, while in 2015 he was elected to the Knesset with a list formed together with the Labour Party, called “the Zionist Union”, which became the second largest parliamentary group at the time.

Hatnua was a party whose demands focused – especially in 2013 – on peace between Israel and the Arabs, social justice, full employment and also full merger between army and citizens, as well as on religious pluralism and secularism.

 The current Education Minister is Yoav Galant.

 He was former Commander of the Southern Command in the Israel Defence Forces and former Minister of Construction in 2015. In 2018 he joined the Likud Party.

 His Polish mother was a Holocaust survivor and his father fought the Nazis, as a partisan of the Jewish brigades, in the forests of Ukraine and Belarus.

.[He served in the 84thGivatiBrigade and he fought the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and other subsequent wars.

 The GivatiBrigade was stationed in the Gaza Strip and mainly carried out counter-guerrilla operations until the Sharon Plan. He received a BA in Business and Finance Management from the University of Haifa.

Galiant began his military career in 1977 as a naval commander in the 13th Flotilla. In the 1980s he moved to Alaska and worked as lumberjack. He then returned to the Navy and served as Commander of a ship-based missile launcher. In 1994 he took up the command of the whole 13th Flotilla.

After serving for three years as Commander of the 13th Flotilla he moved up to command the Gaza Division. In 2001 he was appointed as Chief of Staff, while in 2002 he became the Prime Minister’s Military Secretary.

 In 2005 he was appointed as Commander of the Southern Command. During his tenure the IDF embarked on Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In his political career Galant initially accepted to run for the Kulanu Movement created in 2014, while in 2018 he joined the Likud Party and was appointed as Minister of Aliyah and Integration. In 2019, however, he resigned from the Knesset.

The current Minister of Environmental Protection is Gila Gamliel, a female member of the Likud Party born in 1974 to a Jewish Yemeni family.

 Her mother was from Libya. She studied at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev where she was awarded a BA in Middle Eastern History and Philosophy. Later she also graduated in Law.

The Finance Ministry is led by Israel Katz from the Likud Party. Katz. previously held the posts of Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Transport, Minister of Intelligence and Minister of Foreign Affairs and was also member of the Security Cabinet of Israel.

His parents were German Holocaust survivors coming from the German-speaking region of Romania, on the border with Germany and Hungary.

He drafted into the IDF in 1973 and volunteered in the Paratroopers Brigade. After his discharge in 1977 he studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He entered the Knesset tin 1998 as a replacement for Ehud Olmert.

 In 2003 he was appointed Minister of Agriculture in Ariel Sharon’s government and in January 2004 he announced a plan to increase settlements in the Golan Heights. Along with Netanyahu, Katz was also against Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan. In the same period, he even lobbied with the World Zionist Organisation to provide incentives and subsidies for settlements in the West Bank.

Former Minister of Transport in Netanyahu’s government in 2009, Gabi Ashkenazi is the current Foreign Minister in the government formed by the Likud Party, the “Blue and White” alliance and other groups.

He was Chief of General Staff from 2007 to 2011. He is a Mizrahi Jew -i.e. an Eastern Jew, often of Maghreb origin – born in the Sharon region of central Israel. His father, a Holocaust survivor, had immigrated to Israel from Bulgaria while his mother had immigrated from Syria.

 He attended a renowned high school affiliated with the prestigious Gymnasia Herzliya in Tel Aviv and later studied at the U.S. Marine Corps University.

He served in the Golani Brigade from 1972 to 1988 and he first saw action during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Later he took part in the Operation Thunderbolt, the Operation Entebbe and in the Operation Litani of 1978.

 During the 1982 Lebanon War Ashkenazi served as deputy Commander of the Golani Brigade. He was promoted to Commander of said Brigade in 1987.

A year later he was appointed Head of Intelligence for Israeli Northern Command.

 He later worked as the Chief of Israel’s civil administration in the occupied Lebanon and in 1994 he was promoted to Chief of the General Staff’s Operations Directorate. In 1998 he was appointed Head of the Israeli Northern Command, a position that would make him responsible for Israel’s withdrawal from its Security Zone in Southern Lebanon. He criticized the withdrawal, believing that it should have been accompanied by negotiations with Syria.

He was appointed IDF Deputy Chief of Staff in 2002, but he had also been in charge of the construction and maintenance of the fence physically separating Israeli and Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

 He advocated building the fence very close to the Green Line, i.e. the 1949 “Armistice border”.

In 2006 Ashkenazi was appointed Director-General of the Defence Ministry and served as Chief of the General Staff from 2007 until 2011.

 He joined the current government as member of the “Blue and White” alliance.

Yuli Edelstein, from the Likud Party, is the current Minister of Health.

He is of Ukrainian descent and son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother. Later both parents converted to Christianity. Currently the Minister declares he is an Orthodox Christian and he is also a “Russian Orthodox priest”.

 He arrived in Israel in 1977, but then went back home and was later “sent” to the Siberian penal colonies by the KGB, after being arrested by the Russian Intelligence Service on fabricated charges: coincidentallyhe was charged with home possession of drugs.

 He immigrated definitively to Israel in May 1987,moving to the West Bank settlement of AlonShvut.He did his national military service in the Israel Defence Forces, attaining the rank of Corporal.

 In 1996 he founded the Yisrael Ba Aliyah Party, together with the famous Soviet dissident Nathaniel Sharansky.

 In 1996 he was elected to the Knesset and became Minister of Immigrant Absorption in a Netanyahu’s Likud-led government.

 In 2009 he was appointed Minister of Information and Diaspora.

Following the 2013 elections, he became Speaker of the Knesset.

Another Likud member, Ze’ev Elkin, was appointed to the newly-created posts of Minister of High Education and Minister of Water Resources.

 He was born to a secular Jewish family living in Ukraine and, as a young man, he joined Bnei Atikva, the largest Zionist religious movement in the world.

 He studied mathematics and physics at Kharkiv University from 1987 to 1990. He later became the General Secretary of the Soviet Union branch of Bnei Atikva, the aforementioned association founded during the British Mandate for Palestine.

After immigrating to Israel, he studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was elected to the Knesset for Kadimain 2006.

He served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2013 to 2014 and then became Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

In 2015 Elkin was also appointed Minister of Immigrant Absorption and Minister of Strategic Affairs, a post he had to surrender after only 11 days when Gilad Erdan was appointed Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy. Elkin asked for Minister of Jerusalem Affairs portfolio as compensation for losing Strategic Affairs and Netanyahu met his demand.

 The Ministry of Intelligence is led by Eli Cohen from the Likud Party.He previously held the post of Minister of the Economy and Industry and was a member of the Security Cabinet of Israel.

 He has a MBA in Accounting and in ance, as well as specific qualifications and skills in management.

 The current Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee is Aryeh Deri, from Shas, the Haredi religious political party.

He previously served as Minister of the Economy and in 1999 he was convicted to a three-year jail sentence on bribery and fraud charges.

He was born in Morocco and he is the brother of Rabbi Beer Sheva. In 1998, as Interior Minister, he abolished the censorship of plays in theatres.

TheMinistry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, which is not a permanent Ministry in Israeli politics, is led by Rafi Peretz,who served as the Chief Military Rabbi of the Israel Defence Forces and is currently leader of the “Jewish Home” party.

He was born in Jerusalem to parents of Moroccan Jewish descent and in 2019 he served as Minister of Education.

Avi Nissenkorn is the current Minister of Justice. He is a lawyer and former General Secretary of Histadrut labour union.

He is a member of the “Blue and White” alliance.

His parents immigrated from Poland. In February 2016 he became a member of the Labour Party and later joined the Israel Resilience Party led by Benny Gantz.

The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Social Services is led by Itzik Shmuli, a Labour Party member and former leader of the National Union of Israeli Students.

His parents are of Iraqi Jewish descent: He was conscripted to the Israel Defence Forces in 1998 and served as tank commander. In 2001 he opened a restaurant and catering company with his father in Tel Aviv where he worked for two years. In 2003 he moved to Argentina. After returning to Israel, he attended the Oranim Academic College and graduated in Special Education and Social Community Action. As stated in various articles, he officially belongs to the LGBT community.

 He is a member of the Zionist Union.

A member of the Likud Party, Yuval Steinitz, is the current Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources.

 He served as Minister of Finance (2009-2013) and as Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs (2013-2015). He holds a Ph.D in Philosophy and was a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa.

He joined the “Peace Now” movement as a young student.

The Minister of Public Security, who deals with Police Forces, Prison System and Fire Department, is led by Amir Ohana, another member of the LGBT community.

He previously held the post of Minister of Justice. His parents are Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Morocco. He served in the IDF as a road accident investigator in the Military Police. After leaving regular military service, he served in the Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency.

 He is also Chairman of the Likudgay caucus Likud Pride.

 Gilad Erdan from the Likud Party is the current Regional Cooperation Minister.

 He formerly held the posts of Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs, as well as Minister of Information, Minister of Environmental Protection, Minister of Communications, Home Front Defence Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs.

 Son of Romanian Jews of Hungarian descent, he studied law at Bar-Ilan University and practices as a lawyer. He is also legal advisor to Benyamin Netanyahu.

 He is very close to the U.S. Evangelical Zionist network and was also Israeli Ambassador to the United States from January 2020 to date.

 Yaakov Avitan is the current Minister of Religious Affairs. He is the son of the Rabbi of Be’er Tuvla Regional Council. He was ordained as a Rabbi at the age of 19 and is a current member of the Shas party.

The Ministry of Science and Technology is led by Yizar Shai from the “Blue and White” alliance.

He was born to parents from Argentina. In 1981 he started his national service in the Israel Defence Forces, joining the Paratroopers Brigade and serving in the 1982 Lebanon War.

 He studied at Technion, the best scientific university in Israel and in the whole Middle East, established in 1912, which is currently 85thin the world’s scientific university ranking.

 He established the Business Layers company in 1998.

The Ministry of Settlement Affairs is led by Tzipi Hotovely from the Likud Party.

She already served as Minister of Diaspora Affairs and has a sound legal background.

 She practices Orthodox Judaism and was born to parents who immigrated to Israel from Georgia. She is a famous TV journalist, known for her radical anti-assimilation views on Israeli Arabs.

Meirav Cohen is the Minister for Social Equality and was born to parents who immigrated from Morocco.

 During her national service in the Israel Defence Forces she worked at Army radio as a presenter and editor. She studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for a BA in Economics and Business Administration. She is a member of the “Blue and White” alliance.

 Orit Farkash-Hacohen, from the “Blue and White” alliance, was appointed Minister of Strategic Affairs. She was previously Chairwoman of the Electricity Authority.

She had a career as lawyer and worked for the Anti-Trust Authority. Between 2006 and 2007 she attended Harvard University, earning a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.

Asaf Zamir serves as the new Minister of Tourism for the “Blue and White” alliance. Formerly Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, his family lived in the United States for four years during his childhood. During his national service in the Israel Defence Forces he served in the central control unit of the Israel Air Force. After graduating from Tel Aviv University, he started his career as a lawyer.

 An old friend of Italy, Miri Regev, was appointed Minister of Transportation for the Likud Party. She also previously served as Minister of Culture and Sports. Her father was from Morocco and her mother from Spain.

She began serving as the IDF spokeperson’s representative in the Israeli Southern Command and in 2003 she was appointed coordinator of the national public relations efforts at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office in preparation for the IraqWar.

 She continued to work in the field of military communication during Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the 2006 Lebanon War.

 Finally, Tzachi Hanegbi, a national security expert, is the current Minister without portfolio at the Prime Minister’s Office.

 He previously served as Minister of Agriculture and rural Development and Minister of Regional Cooperation, as well as Minister of Justice, Minister of Internal Security, Minister of Intelligence and Nuclear Affairs and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office supervising Israel’s Intelligence Agencies. He was born to a family of founders of the covert and underground organizations that later reported to the Likud Party.

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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Middle East

The Russian bear in Lebanon

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It turned out that the Biden-Putin summit on May 16 has established a wider effect than anyone would expect.

It exceeded by far political analysis, especially in Lebanon. The summit almost coincided with the Russian economic delegation’s visit to Beirut on the 18th of the same month and the announcement of its study results to initiate investments projects in Lebanon.

The results revealed the Russian delegation’s future plans in rebuilding the oil refineries in Zahrani and Tripoli and rehabilitating the latter’s port. Regardless of the projects, the Russian companies intend to deal with, if they are approved and encouraged by good signs changes can be relied upon. It means that Lebanon has taken an important leap in its economic policies by gradually moving towards the East.

Naturally, Lebanon’s orientation towards the East “if it happens” will not be absolute and definitive, but rather principled and partial. This is an important matter by itself. It is marked as a qualitative leap that may minimize the private companies’ monopolization of energy imports, which will be directly reflected, firstly, in electricity production in Lebanon, and secondly in facilitating the provision of petroleum products in Lebanon. Such projects became a necessity, in particular, after the collapse of the Lebanese lira against the American dollar.    

Logically, changing the reality of the production of electricity will reveal immediate results. It will be reflected in the change in the rehabilitation of the economic infrastructure fields in Lebanon. It will also positively reflect in other vital areas, such as determining the prices of food commodities, which became outrageously high. 

Accordingly, one of the most important reasons for the obscene rise in food prices is related to the high costs of transportation in the last month alone. It is almost above the purchasing power of the Lebanese. For example, the prices of vegetables and fruits, a non-imported commodity, which is not supervised by government support, remained within reasonable prices; however, once the diesel prices started rising, it directly affected the prices of the seasonal vegetables and fruits.

In addition, there are unseen accomplishments that will go with the entry of Russian companies, which is creating new job opportunities in Lebanon. Lately, it was reported that unemployment in Lebanon will reach 41.4% this year. It is a huge rate, which the Lebanese media, in general, use to provoke people against the current resigned government. However, it neglects to shed the light on the importance of the Russian investment in creating new job opportunities, which will affect all social groups, whether they were transporters, building workers, porters, cleaners, or university graduates.

The companies coming to Lebanon are directly supported by the Russian state. However, they are private companies, a fact that has its advantages. They are familiarized with dealing with other Western international companies. Russian companies have previously coordinated with French and Italian companies in Lebanon, through contracts concluded for the extraction of gas in Lebanese fields and in other fields outside Lebanon. Russian- European coordination process is also recognized in rebuilding Beirut’s harbor. A German company will rebuild the docks, while the French will rebuild the containers or depots, and the Russian companies will rebuild the wheat silos.

It seems that the process is closely related to the future of Lebanon and the future of the Chinese project, the New Silk Road, [One Road, and One Belt]. However, it is not clear yet whether the Russian companies will be investing in Tripoli’s refinery and in regenerating and expanding its port or it will be invested by the Chinese companies. If this achievement is accomplished, then Tripoli will restore its navigating glorious history. Tripoli was one of the most important ports on the Mediterranean. Additionally, there is a need for the Russian and the Chinese to expand on the warm shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Secondly, the project will boost Tripoli and its surroundings from the current low economic situation to a prosperous economic one, if the real intentions are there. The results in Tripoli will be read as soon as the projects set foot in the city. Of course, this will establish another Sino-Russian victory in the world of economy and trade, if not in politics as well.

The entry of the Russians and the Chinese into the Lebanese field of commerce has international implications. It will come within international and global agreements or understanding. Nevertheless, it is a sign that the Americans are actually losing their grip on Lebanon. This entry will stop the imposition of a limited number of European-oriented Lebanese monopolizing companies, which have dominated the major Lebanese trade of oil and its products. Dominance is protected with the “illusion” of meaningless international resolution. It is true that the Americans are still maneuvering in several places; however, this is evident to the arbitrariness of decisions making in the U.S. today. It is the confusion resulting from ramifications of the “Sword of Jerusalem” operation in Palestine; it seems that they do not have a clear plan towards policies in the region, other than supporting “Israel”.

If the above is put into action, and the Russian companies start working within a guarantee agreement with the Lebanese state. This means a set of important issues on the international and regional levels. And it also means that the Americans would certainly prefer the Russians to any Chinese or Iranian economic direct cooperation in Lebanon.

Firstly, it is clear that in their meeting Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin reached a kind of consent to activate stability in the region. Two years ago, the Americans had a different plan. According to an established source, the Americans actually intended to strike internal stability in Lebanon and ignite another civil war round, before finalizing stability in Syria. This assertion tunes with David Hale’s, an American envoy to Lebanon, a declaration about the American anger over the $10 billion spent in Lebanon to change the political reality and overthrow Hezbollah from the government. Consequently, the American project is behind us now. Russia and China need to invest in the stability of Lebanon, in order to secure their investments in the process of rebuilding Syria.

Secondly, the Lebanese state guarantee, which the Russians require, is directly related to the lack of confidence in the Lebanese banking policies, which have lost their powers as a guarantor for investments after the role they played since November 17, 2019 till today. It proved the inefficiency of the financial policies of the Lebanese banks, which was based on the principle of usury since the nineties of the last century. In addition, a state guarantee will enable the Russian companies to surpass the American sanctions. 
The state guarantee increases the value and importance of the Lebanese state as an entity in the region, and this can be understood from Macron’s statements after the explosion of Beirut port last August when he said that Lebanon’s role in the region as we know it must change. 

Thirdly, if we consider the history of international unions in the world, including the European Union, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council and others, they started as economic alliances before they end as political alliances. Therefore, at this historical stage and in order to work on the economic recovery of Lebanon, which needs more investments instead of falling under the burden of more debts. Lebanon needs to head East towards economic unity with Syria. In cooperating with two superpowers, Lebanon and Syria can form an economic bloc on the Mediterranean shores, a bloc that can get Lebanon out of the vortex of Western absurdity and expand its alliances and horizons to be a real economic and cultural forum where the East and the West can meet.

From our partner Tehran Times

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A New Era in US-Jordan Relations

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President Joe Biden meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

King Abdullah of Jordan is the first Arab leader who met American President Joe Biden at the White House. The visit has reaffirmed the strong and long-standing Jordan-US strategic partnership and reinvigorated the bilateral engagement for working together on security issues, and economic development on the basis of shared values and priorities. The King’s visit to Washington reaffirmed Jordan’s value as a reliable ally who plays a critical role for stability in a highly volatile region.

Jordan’s value is multi-dimensional and ranges from bilateral military cooperation, intelligence sharing and joint global counterterrorism operations including as a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS and the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve to deployment of almost three thousand (3,000) American troops to Jordan as part of the ongoing campaign to combat regional terrorism. The US has expanded military footprint to Jordan after Washington’s decision to withdraw forces from Syria and reduce military presence in the Turkish airbase of Incirlik. In addition, the kingdom’s geopolitical position in the heart of the Middle East provides a viable alternative for logistical support to the American military taking into consideration the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan and close three bases in Qatar. Notably, the remaining supplies from the three Qatari bases along with the Support Mission have been transferred to Jordan and have become part of the Area Support Group-Jordan that operates as the Base Operations Support Integrator to back contingency operations and military-to-military engagements within the US Army Central Command’s area of responsibility.

Jordan’s value also stems from its critical role in addressing the overwhelming humanitarian needs created by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as well as in hosting almost two million registered Palestinian refugees.

Support of Two-state Solution

The fact that Jordan remains at peace with Israel and is a key interlocutor with the Palestinians adds to the kingdom’s reliability to mediate and advance initiatives that support the two-state solution. This presupposes the resetting of Jordan-Israel relations. Washington is well-placed to offer its good offices and help restore trust between the two neighboring countries. The twenty-seventh year Jordan-Israel peace treaty shows not only the possibilities for coordination and co-existence but also the ceilings to peace with Israel in the absence of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A “cold peace” and quiet, limited cooperation are currently the maximum possibilities vis-a-vis a “warm peace” that will unlock Jordan-Israel cooperation and potential.

It is nevertheless noteworthy that the last five years have been discerned by the previous American administration’s lack of appreciation of the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Trump peace proposal, known as “the Vision”, not only undermined the long-established aim of a two-state solution but also reinforced discussions over alternatives including a one state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; different measures of annexation, such as Israeli annexation of Area C in the West Bank; “exotic options” such as a federation in which Israel and Palestine share certain aspects of sovereignty; potential unilateral Israeli initiatives with most prevailing a Jordanian model, in which Jordan takes control of the West Bank and Palestinians are given Jordanian citizenship; and, reinforcement of the notion that “Jordan is “Palestine””.

Practically, Jordan can serve as honest broker in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but as the late King Hussein stated in an interview with The New York Times in 1991 “Jordan should not be, cannot be, will not be a substitute for the Palestinians themselves as the major aggrieved party on the Arab side in a process that leads to peace”. The cited statement is fully embraced by Jordan’s current leadership.

Acknowledgment of Jordan’s Custodianship

The public acknowledgement by the American President of the kingdom’s special role as custodian of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem is translated into a vote of confidence and a commendation for Jordan’s efficient safeguarding of religious sites for decades.  As known, Amman pays the salaries of more than one thousand (1,000) employees of the Jerusalem Waqf Department and its custodianship role is carried out on behalf of all Islamic nations. The kingdom holds the exclusive authority of the Jordanian-appointed council, the Waqf, over the Temple Mount/ Haram Al Sharif and has spent over 1 billion dollars since 1924 for the administration and renovation of Al Aqsa mosque.

Jordan has admittedly served at multiple occasions as credible intermediary for Israel and the Palestinians to suspend tensions in the old city of Jerusalem, particularly at the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif and pursues a successful administration of religious funded schools favoring moderate religious education and religious tourism. Jordanian moderation has guaranteed co-existence of the three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem at a time when on the contrary, counties like Turkey funnel millions of dollars in charity projects in Jerusalem promoting the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Overall, Jordan’s custodianship has proved to be successful in maintaining delicate arrangements for the benefit of all religions and parties involved.

American Loan Guarantees

The King’s discussions with the American President also centered on the economic challenges exacerbated by the effect of the pandemic and the enhancement of bilateral economic cooperation. Admittedly, Jordan showed strong leadership and governance with early actions that reduced the coronavirus pandemic pressure on the kingdom’s health system. The Jordanian government imposed a nationwide lockdown and severe social distancing measures at a much earlier stage of the pandemic than other Middle East countries.

Jordan withstood the pandemic’s impact with minimal loss of life but with a significant cost to its economy. As of June 2020, most restrictions on economic activity were lifted turning Jordan into one of the first Arab countries to reopen. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has contracted in 2020 by 3.5 percent after growing 2 percent in 2019 due to losses in state revenues because of fewer remittances and a weakened tourism market.

To cope with the direct negative effects of the pandemic on its state budget, the Kingdom received $396 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The amount of finance has specifically helped address the country’s balance of payments needs and allowed for higher spending on healthcare, and assistance to households and companies most affected by the pandemic. Despite that the IMF provided in March 2020 another multi-year $1.3 billion loan package to Jordan, the pandemic has caused a $1.5 billion shortfall in its balance of payments.

This complex economic reality along with Jordan’s moderation in the Arab world justify continued robust annual American economic assistance to the kingdom in the form of budgetary support (cash transfer), USAID programs in Jordan, and loan guarantees. US cash assistance should increase in the coming years taking into consideration that it is directed to refugee support and to segments of the economy that are mostly affected by the pandemic like foreign debt payments and fuel import costs. Overall, a pledge should be made for Jordan in American congress for the authorization of moreUS sovereign loan guarantees that will help the kingdom weather the pandemic’s adverse medium-to-long-term effects on its economy. US sovereign loan guarantees will allow Jordan to issue debt securities that are fully guaranteed by the American government in capital markets, effectively subsidizing the cost for the Jordanian government to access financing.

It is also noticeable that in a genuine effort to help the kingdom contain the pandemic and safeguard public health, the American administration proceeded with the delivery of over 500 thousand covid-19 vaccines to Jordan highlighting American commitment to international vaccination programs including that of the kingdom.

US-Jordan Defense Partnership

The strategic US-Jordan defense relationship was reflected in the discussions that were conducted between the Jordanian King and the American President. American support for the modernization of Jordan’s F-16 fighter jets has been at the forefront of the agenda with the aim of achieving greater interoperability and effectiveness for the Jordanian Armed Forces.  The American President recognized Jordan’s contribution to the successful international campaign to defeat ISIS and honored as an example of heroism the memory of captain Muath al-Kasasbeh who was executed in 2015 by the terrorist organization’s militants.  

Jordan has suffered avowedly from terrorism throughout the years and works collectively at regional and international levels to eliminate all its forms. The kingdom lost two prime ministers, Haza’a Al-Majali and Wasfi Al-Tal, as victims of terrorism and experienced a series of terrorist attacks like the simultaneous suicide bombings against three hotels in Amman in November 2005 that led to the loss of life of American, Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian nationals.

In effect, Jordan is the third-largest recipient of annual American foreign aid globally, after Afghanistan and Israel. A Memorandum of Understanding on American foreign assistance to Jordan commits the United States to providing $1.275 billion per year over a five-year period for a total of $6.375 billion (FY2018-FY2022). Renegotiations on the next such agreement for FY2023-FY2027 is estimated that will aim at increasing the American commitment to Jordan, a key ally in the fight against international terrorism whose military should be in position to procure and maintain conventional weapons systems.

On the whole, Jordan is a steadfast security partner of the United States in the Middle East whose moderation and pragmatism helped the kingdom weather regional and world challenges. As 2021 and past years have showed, Jordan’s position as a bridge between the Levant and the Persian Gulf provides it a unique geopolitical standing, in a way that nowadays Amman is granted with a significant security, diplomatic and humanitarian role that signals a new era in US-Jordan relations.

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Middle East

Chinese FM Wraps Up his Visit to Egypt

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Wang Yi, the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister, visited Egypt on July 18, 2021, in El Alamein City, northwest Egypt. The Chinese Foreign Minister is the first foreign official to visit this strategic city.

Wang Yi met with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, during his visit to Egypt, and they discussed bilateral relations between the two countries. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Egypt and China. Egypt is the first Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with China and the first African country to do so. In the Arab world, the Islamic world, Africa, and developing countries, Egypt has long been one of China’s most important strategic partners. At the international level, the two countries mutually support one another. The meeting between Egypt’s Foreign Minister and China’s Foreign Minister focused on three main issues: the Covid-19 vaccine, the One Belt One Road Initiative, and international and regional issues such as Palestine and Syria

Covid-19 Vaccine

Both Egypt and China have a long history of cooperation and friendship. Before the outbreak of the Covid-19, the two countries’ relations were based on economic and trade cooperation, with China being Egypt’s first trading partner for the eighth year in a row since 2013, and the volume of trade exchange between the two countries exceeding $14.5 billion in 2020. However, as the outbreak Covid-19, cooperation between the two countries expanded to include medical cooperation. Egypt and China worked together to combat the virus. Egypt sent medical supplies to China, and China sent medical supplies and Chinese vaccine to Egypt. In addition, in December 2020, the two sides signed a cooperation agreement on COVID-19 Vaccine Production and China dispatched technical teams to Egypt to assist in the vaccine’s local manufacture. As a result, Egypt is considered Africa’s first vaccine manufacturer.

One Belt One Road Initiative  

Egypt is an important strategic partner in building the Belt and Road Initiative. According to CGTN, the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al- Sisi, stated that:” Egypt supports the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI).” He added that Egypt is ready to strengthen cooperation with China in the fields of economy, trade, industry, science and technology, and expand human exchanges within the framework of the “Belt and Road Initiative.” One Belt and One Road Initiative is one of the most important initiatives of the twenty-first century, announced by President Xi Jinping during official visits to Indonesia and Kazakhstan in 2013. Egypt was one of the first countries to participate in this initiative. In 2014, Egyptian President al-Sisi expressed in an interview that China’s One Belt and One Road Initiative was an “opportunity” for cooperation between China and Egypt. Egypt was willing to participate in it actively.

International and Regional Issues

Regarding the international and regional issues, the two sides exchanged views and coordinated positions on some issues as Palestine, Syria issues. It’s worth mentioning that Wang Yi paid a visit to Syria the day before his trip to Egypt, marking him the first Chinese official to visit Syria since the country’s civil war began. China supports the Syrian sovereignty and rejects foreign interference in Syria, and also rejects the regime change. The Egyptian Minister Sameh Shoukry also discussed with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi the GERD issue. According to Sky News, Shoukry explained Egypt and Sudan’s positions as two downstream countries, the importance of preserving the interests of all parties and not jeopardizing the downstream countries’ water security, and the importance of engaging in intensified negotiations under the auspices of the African Union presidency. The two sides signed an agreement on the Egyptian-Sino Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee at the end of their meeting.

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