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The Middle East continues to take center stage in world events. First, a look at what is happening in Egypt. President Mohammed Morsi recently greatly consolidated power to himself through a number of decrees. Incredibly, he announced that none of his presidential rulings can be challenged legally until the constitution is completed. Also incredibly, he ordered that the body drafting Egypt’s constitution (made up mostly of Islamists) would be free from judicial oversight. The move is causing hundreds of thousands of angry Egyptians to again fill Tahrir Square in Cairo to protest what they view as the loss of their democratic revolution. Many are even calling for Mr. Morsi to be removed from power.
In an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel, Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei stated, “He grabbed full power for himself. Not even the pharaohs had so much authority, to say nothing of his predecessor Hosni Mubarak. This is a catastrophe…a mockery of the revolution that brought him to power and an act that leads one to fear the worst…”
Mr. ElBaradei went on to describe the constitutional convention that is now underway: “We have no functioning parliament and months ago Morsi assumed legislative functions. Now he’s decided that there should be no opposition to the laws that he makes and that he is authorized to pass any national security measure. It is difficult to be more absolutist than that. And the constitutional convention—what a sad gathering; it threatens to send us back to the darkest period of the Middle Ages.” In a sign that the president would not back down, the Muslim Brotherhood tweeted this recent quote from Mr. Morsi’s spokesman: “…no turning back, decree is staying, those not willing to reach to a point of stability will be held accountable to God & history…” (The Globe and Mail).
Then there was the all-out war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip that was barely avoided after both sides agreed to a cease-fire. Tensions had flared after Israel assassinated the military leader of Hamas, beginning a huge increase in the number of rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza. The agreement was largely brokered by Egypt, which, incredibly, is now the designated mediator (by the United States) between both sides. However, it is abundantly clear that the cease-fire talks—now or future ones—will be one-sided. First, Hamas does not even recognize Israel’s right to exist, which of course makes it impossible to come to any kind of lasting truce. Second, when fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas earlier in the month, Egypt immediately backed Hamas, even sending a delegation led by Egypt’s prime minister to Gaza to lend support.
There are already signs that the Israelis will face mounting pressure to concede ground during negotiations. An Egyptian official reported to Reuters that the cease-fire talks would include “Palestinian demands for the opening of more Israeli crossings into Gaza—a move that would help end six years of blockade of the coastal enclave ruled by the Islamist Hamas.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders are becoming more aggressive in their bid for full statehood in the United Nations. This Thursday, the UN voted to upgrade the Palestinians from an “observer entity” to an “observer state.” (The Palestinian state will now be recognized as a “non-member state,” a status similar to the Vatican’s.) Germany did not support the move. UN Spokesman Steffen Seibert summarized it this way earlier this week: “We are assessing the situation and want as much agreement as possible with our European partners...But it is certain that Germany will not vote for such a resolution” (Reuters). Instead, Germany abstained. Virtually ALL of Europe folded in BEHIND GERMANY! The Palestinians did have the support of France, which has now become the first European nation to approve of the Palestinians’ UN bid. Denmark and China also backed the action. The UN General Assembly voted an overwhelmingly 138-9 in favor of the move, while 41 countries abstained from the vote. The United States, Canada and obviously Israel all voted against the upgraded status, alongside six other tiny nations, mostly Pacific islands loyal to America.
The most significant aspect of this status change is that the Palestinians now carry the legal authority to bring charges of war crimes against Israel in the International Criminal Court—a court that is stacked deep with pro-Palestinians. Think about the position that little Israel finds itself in, and ask: How long before charges are filed? In fact, the very next day (Friday) Israel charged ahead with more settlements east of Jerusalem, thus immediately angering almost the whole world.