Samuel Segev

  • Moment of truth 'maybe'

    TEL AVIV -- Is Israel approaching its moment of truth with Iran? The official and public position is "no." But behind the scenes diplomatic activity that suggests "maybe." Last week, U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon completed two days of intense talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanahu, Defence Minster Ehud Barak and Israeli National Security Adviser Gen. Yaacov Amidror.
  • U.S. moves cautiously in 'foggy' Mideast

    TEL AVIV -- The U.S. moved quickly this week to consolidate relations with an Egypt ruled by a Muslim Brotherhood and is keeping the door open for the new government to achieve more co-operation with the West in the future. Following a meeting on Sunday with Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns handed him a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama inviting him to meet during the UN General Assembly in September. Later this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also will meet with Morsi.
  • Blocs are locked into Syrian positions

    TEL AVIV -- The meetings held recently in various cities to discuss the Syrian situation were no more than an exercise in futility. The meetings have served only the Syrian regime more time to implement its own military solution, which practically meant the continued deaths of hundreds of innocent people every week. After the collapse of a UN peace plan brokered by UN special envoy, Kofi Annan, UN observers sent to Syria to observe the non-existent ceasefire are now confined to their hotels, since it became too dangerous for them to go out and observe the ceasefire.
  • Putin shows flag in Israel, and little more

    TEL AVIV -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin held private consultations on Iran, Egypt and Syria on Monday, the day after Mohammed Morsi became the new Egyptian president. Putin came to Israel on a one-day private visit during which he and President Shimon Peres inaugurated in Netanya a memorial to honour millions of Soviet soldiers killed during the Second World War, whose sacrifices saved thousands of Jews from extermination in the Holocaust.
  • Israel breaks silence on Syria, condemns 'genocide'

    TEL-AVIV -- After more than a year of official silence, Israel finally came out publicly against the continued massacre in Syria and called for the removal from office of President Bashar Assad. Deputy prime minister Saul Mofaz told Israeli army radio a "crime against humanity, a genocide is being conducted in Syria today."
  • Massacre signals civil war

    TEL AVIV -- Despite the UN Security Council's unanimous condemnation of the massacre of 116 civilians, among them 32 children, in the Sunni Syrian village of Houla, near the city of Homs, there is no solution in sight for the Syrian uprising. On the contrary -- all signs indicate that the Syrian rebellion could slide towards a chronic internal crisis, where President Bashar Assad's regime stays in power while facing ongoing internal opposition.
  • Egyptian vote bad for Israel

    TEL AVIV -- As 50 million Egyptian voters go to the polls to elect a new president today, one thing is already clear -- Israel is the big loser in these post-Mubarak elections. Public opinion polls in Egypt, commissioned by Israeli groups, came to the same conclusion.
  • Political climate in Jordan boiling

    What is going on in Jordan? For some time, the political climate in the kingdom has been boiling. In the last six months, King Abdullah has been forced to change his government three times, but demonstrations against the monarch continue. Luckily for him, there is no immediate danger of his overthrow.
  • Syria beats back its rivals

    TEL AVIV -- Syrian President Bashar Assad proved Monday once again that with the support of Russia and Iran, he is still able to politically defeat the United States, Turkey and the Persian Gulf countries. Based on a new "constitution" that was unilaterally approved last February, the Syrian people were asked Monday to elect 250 new members of parliament, from among 7,195 candidates in 15 electoral districts. The Syrian opposition boycotted the elections. So did the Western powers. But it really didn't matter.
  • Election to resolve issues in Israel

    TEL AVIV -- Suddenly, and without any advance notice, the Israeli domestic scene was thrown into disarray Sunday. Talk about the dangers of a nuclear Iran or plans for the revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were pushed aside. Instead, all parties began talking about new parliamentary elections, possibly in August or mid-October. Two issues brought about this sudden change: the abolition of Tal Law, which exempted thousands of ultra-religious Jews from military service or national civilian service; and the uncompromising position of most parties regarding necessary budget cuts in order to meet the requirements of the social unrest.
  • Egypt-Israel tensions on the rise

    TEL AVIV -- Israel celebrates its 64th year of independence Thursday greatly satisfied with its political stability and achievements in many fields. But Israel is also looking beyond scheduled June presidential elections in Egypt and wondering what its future relations will be with an Egypt dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel received an advance warning this week with Egypt's one-sided abrogation of its 2005 gas deal under which Cairo undertook to supply Israel with gas for 15 years at a fixed price, not withstanding changes in the world market.
  • American power in Middle East tested

    TEL AVIV -- The nuclear conference that has concluded in Istanbul and the forthcoming meeting in Baghdad on May 24 are far more important than their declared goal -- preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The real purpose of the gatherings, from an American perspective, is how to maintain American hegemony in a region where new forces are emerging and are seeking a slice of the cake that was owned until now by the U.S.
  • What will be on the table in Istanbul

    TEL AVIV -- A meeting this Friday in Istanbul between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and Iran is probably one of the most important international events in decade. It will determine whether Iran is sincerely ready to compromise on its nuclear plans, or whether it will use the negotiations as a delaying tactic while continuing its plans to become a nuclear power and a regional leader.
  • Mofaz ousts Livni, targets Netanyahu

    TEL AVIV -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his fourth year in office this week facing a double challenge to his leadership, both in the domestic arena and in foreign affairs. For the past three years, Netanyahu headed one of the most stable governments in Israel. With a comfortable parliamentary majority, he was able to conduct an independent foreign policy that shifted the focus from the Palestinian issue to the dangers of Iran's nuclear program.
  • Egyptian identity on table

    TEL AVIV -- Less than two months before the post-Mubarak presidential elections in Egypt, both the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Muslim Brotherhood are nearing a confrontation over two main points. The first is the identity of Egypt -- is it totally Islamist, or semi-secular? The second is the role of the military in Egypt's political system.
  • Annan steps between rock and hard place in Syria

    TEL AVIV -- The twin blasts Saturday in Damascus and a similar car bomb in Aleppo on Sunday opened a new phase in the Syrian insurgency. The blasts proved that despite the supremacy of the Syrian army, the Syrian opposition has moved into a new stage in its effort to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad. Those who carried out the attacks proved they were well-trained and well-equipped with the necessary intelligence and, more important, they proved they were ready to challenge Assad's regime in its strongest targets, its two intelligence agencies.
  • Syrian referendum changes nothing

    TEL AVIV -- A referendum on a new constitution for Syria Sunday changed nothing -- the opposition does not recognize the results and the proposed constitutional changes are so minor as to be meaningless. The White House has already described the referendum as "laughable." Berlin called it a "sham" and a "farce."
  • Israel wise to heed American pressure

    TEL-AVIV -- On the eve of the resumption of talks between the West and Iran over Iran's nuclear capabilities, the U.S. has resumed pressure on Israel to give diplomacy a chance. On the weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama dispatched National Security Advisor Tom Donilon for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his more-combative defence minister, Ehud Barak.
  • Russian arms used in slaughter of civilians in Syria

    TEL AVIV -- What to do about Syria? The double veto of Russia and China in the Security Council last week has confronted all concerned with a new reality -- a regional Sunni-led insurgency, supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, struggling against a Shiite-Alawite Syrian minority supported by Russia and Iran. According to intelligence available in Israel, Russia supplied the Syrian army with the artillery shells for the five-day shelling of rebel positions in the city of Homs. For Russia, the idea that Bashar Assad must go is not even on the table. Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN, said the Syrian opposition must start a dialogue with Bashar Assad's regime.
  • Obama torn by conflicting allies

    TEL AVIV -- U.S. President Barack Obama has shown once again how difficult it is for him to navigate among four of his closest allies regarding Syria and Iran. Israel and Saudi Arabia are pushing for a harsher reaction to Iran's continuing drive to acquire nuclear capability. At the same time, they are urging harsher steps against Syria.
  • Time, it appears, is on Assad's side

    TEL AVIV -- Amid continuing bloodshed and brutal massacres, the Arab League has taken the Syrian file to the UN Security Council. Tabled by Morocco, and supported by the U.S., France and Britain, the Arab League is seeking regime change in Syria as the only way to stop the massacres there.
  • Peace treaty in peril

    TEL AVIV -- Egypt inaugurated on Monday its newly elected and Muslim-dominated parliament that will redefine the role of Islam in Egypt's Second Republic. The emergence of political Islam began in Tunis, when a liberal Muslim scholar won the Oct. 23, 2011, elections. It was followed in Morocco on Nov. 25 and Monday was Egypt's turn.
  • Israel seeks clarification of U.S. stance on Iran's 'capability'

    TEL AVIV -- A visit to Israel this week by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, should help clarify two issues: the nature of Israeli-U.S. resolve to stop Iran's nuclear program; and, what exactly the U.S. perceives that program to be. Questions about resolve were raised by an American-Israeli statement that an upcoming joint military exercise had been postponed to the second half of 2012.
  • Arab Spring deals Iran losing cards

    TEL AVIV -- Iran has emerged as the "big loser" of the Arab Spring. When Iran saw the fall of the pro-western regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, it believed that its road to dominance in the Arab world was paved. But it soon discovered that the Arab masses were not eager to replace their autocratic and corrupt leaders with intolerant and more repressive Shiite Muslim leaders.
  • Jordan makes a move

    TEL AVIV — Amid much skepticism and with little expectations for a breakthrough, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet today in Amman, Jordan, in an effort to resume negotiations. This is a personal victory for Jordan’s King Abdullah who succeeded where the United States, Europe, Russia and the United Nations failed. It is also a personal victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insisted on direct negotiations with the Palestinians and refused to negotiate through international intermediaries.

About Samuel Segev

Samuel Segev is the Winnipeg Free Press correspondent in the Middle East. He is based in Tel Aviv.

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