Today's my birthday, so here's one of my favorite cartoons, ever.
07 April 2011
Here are today's must-reads from the Middle East Channel brief:
'Building the Palestinian State: Sustaining Growth, Institutions, and Service Delivery' (World Bank, Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee)The World Bank released its annual report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), a consortium of donor bodies which support the Palestinian Authority, in advance of their meeting next week in Brussels. In assessing the state of the Palestinian economy and the institutions that would underpin a future Palestinian state, Mariam J. Sherman, World Bank Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza, said, "Action is required by all parties -- Israel, the PA and the donor community -- but the closure regime remains the most substantial obstacle to Palestinian economic viability." Among the report's conclusions: "The economic growth observed in the West Bank and Gaza is arguably donor-driven, and sustainable growth remains hampered by Israeli restrictions on access to land, water, a range of raw materials, and export markets, to name a few".
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'Popular Protests in North Africa and the Middle East (III): The Bahrain Revolt' (International Crisis Group)The trajectory of Bahrain's protest movement will certainly be a bellwether for how the West will operate with friendly autocrats in a post-Mubarak era. While visiting Riyadh yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a reporter that he did not raise the issue of Saudi military presence in Bahrain in his meeting with King Adbullah. According to ICG, "Manama's crackdown and Saudi Arabia's military intervention are dangerous moves that could stamp out hopes for peaceful transition in Bahrain." The report also looks at the "largely unfounded" fear of an Iranian "takeover" in Bahrain.In addition to a stock-taking of the major players in Bahrain, the report offers this takeaway:Given the level of distrust, involvement of a credible third party facilitator appears to be both essential and urgent. The goal would be to work out a plan for gradual but genuine reform toward a constitutional monarchy, with real parliamentary powers and redress of sectarian discrimination. In this context, Saudi Arabia and the other contributing Gulf states should withdraw their security forces and equipment from the island. Protesters should continue to use peaceful means to express their grievances and demands while agreeing to negotiate with the regime.Meanwhile, a new NOREF report, 'Consequences of the political deadlock in Bahrain on reforms in the Gulf,' assesses the unrest in light of the "Manama Spring" of the 1990s.
'Tunisian Labor Leaders Reflect Upon Revolt' (Chris Toensing, Middle East Report)Chris Toensing, executive director of MERIP, recently interviewed key leaders fromTunisia's labor federation, the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, on political and labor developments since Ben Ali's ouster. According to Abdellatif Hamrouni, secretary-general of the country's federation of public works employees, "[O]ne of the issues each of us in Tunisia faces is how to get rid of self-censorship. Even now that Ben Ali is gone, two months later, we still feel that we are practicing it sometimes. We have all learned to speak in code. And we have learned to doubt everyone-even, sometimes, ourselves."