Islamist Rise Alters Middle East Equation
05 Jan 2012 01:37 GMT
 

CAIRO - Spurred by the rise of Islamists in the Middle East, Palestinians and Israelis held their first high-level talks in more than a year in Jordan this week to discuss thorny issues of the decades-long regional conflict.< (more)

CAIRO - Spurred by the rise of Islamists in the Middle East, Palestinians and Israelis held their first high-level talks in more than a year in Jordan this week to discuss thorny issues of the decades-long regional conflict.

“All three parties are very much concerned with the rise of Islamism, and that is part of what this meeting was about,” Zakaria al-Qaq, a political scientist at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem, told The New York Times.

Palestinian and Israeli officials met in Amman on Tuesday, January 3, to agree terms on how to resume their moribund peace talks.

The meeting, held under the auspices of Jordanian King Abdullah II, was the first in more than a year since Palestinian-Israeli talks collapsed over Israel's refusal to halt settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

"We held today a serious discussion that aims at launching peace talks at the earliest possible opportunity over final status issues," Jordanian Foreign Minister Naser Judeh said.

But analysts believe that the meeting was spurred by worries of the rise of Islamist parties in the region following popular unrest.

Dore Gold, the president of the conservative Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said that he saw in the meeting “a set of interests coalescing”.

President Mahmoud Abbas “has lost his Egyptian backing because of the fall of Hosni Mubarak, so is turning to Jordan,” said Gold, a former ambassador and adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades, was ousted in a popular revolution in February.

Abbas's rule is no confined to the West Bank after troops of his Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority were ousted from Gaza after a deadly fighting with Hamas in 2007.

“King Abdullah would like to see Israeli-Palestinian relations more stabilized, and Israel would like to revive dialogue with the Palestinians and strengthen King Abdullah,” said Gold.

Islamist Clout

Though no breakthrough was made during the talks, analysts opine that Jordan has sought to boost its role by hosting the meeting.

“The king sees it as win-win if Jordan tries and is at least seen to be doing something,” a Jordanian official told The New York Times on condition of anonymity.

Analysts believe that the meeting also aimed to counter the growing clout of Hamas following Arab revolutions.

“There is a historic development by Hamas in the last two months,” Mahdi Abdul Hadi, the director of a Palestinian research group in Jerusalem, told The New York Times.

“It is going through the same process as the Muslim Brotherhood elsewhere.”

Hamas's clout was boosted after reaching an Egyptian-sponsored deal with Israel to swap captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for 1,026 Palestinian prisoners.

Boosted by the rise of Islamist groups in Egypt and Arab countries, Hamas reached a deal to reconcile with rival Fatah.

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh is on a regional tour, his first in years since Israel slapped a crippling blockade on Gaza.“The new political Islam is practical and realistic,” said Abdul Hadi.

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net



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