Arabic media review

Assad: ‘I will win, even if Damascus is destroyed’

Arabs closely follow election campaign; Obama promise for peaceful future

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Free Syrian Army fighters hold their weapons during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, January 20, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Andoni Lubaki)
Free Syrian Army fighters hold their weapons during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, on Sunday, January 20, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Andoni Lubaki)

The Israeli elections, President Obama’s inauguration speech and the violence in Syria all feature prominently in Arab news Tuesday.

“Israelis head to the polls today and a ‘settler government’ is forthcoming,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat. Featuring a photo of a soldier under a large Likud election banner, the newspaper predicts “an absolute majority” for the “right-religious bloc,” adding that Netanyahu will most likely include Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party in his coalition.

Al-Hayat journalist Amal Shahadeh claims that despite the fact that Netanyahu is sure to win the vote, the prime minister is worried about a massive loss of support among the Israeli electorate.

“When he goes to the polls today to vote before the cameras, Netanyahu will try to hide his concern. After all, he has built his entire campaign on being ‘the strong leader that Israel needs in order to be strong.'”

In an editorial in London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi titled “Netanyahu is returning and what are you doing?” the writer launches a scathing attack on the Israeli voter.

“The Israeli voters will largely elect [representatives] most hateful and hostile to Arabs; the most proactive in building settlements and confiscating Arab lands,” writes Atwan.   

“The question is, what will the Arabs do following the emergence of the results tomorrow morning, asserting Netanyahu’s victory? It is unfortunate that there are no clear and serious plans among Arabs and Palestinians… we have not heard any statement by the Palestinian Authority and its leaders regarding the right wing danger which is quickly approaching.”

Like Al-Hayat, both Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya depict photos of soldiers voting.   

“The Israeli democracy is sick,” writes Muhannad Abu-Hamid in PA newspaper Al-Ayyam.

“The weeks prior to the Israeli Knesset elections of 2013 have shown the Palestinian people and the world the nature of the Israeli state and its people,” writes Abu-Hamid. “This people has a supernatural character with its own rules, criteria and policies. All of these unique characteristics have nothing to do with the rest of the world. It resembles only itself; so we can therefore say that Israel is a state above the law.”

Arabs highlight Obama’s reference to peace

Arab media are focusing on the foreign policy component of Obama’s inauguration speech on Monday.

“The decade of war is over,” reads the headline of A-Sharq Al-Awsat, quoting from the president’s speech, while the headline of Al-Hayat quotes him saying that “security and peace don’t require perpetual war.”

Abdul Rahman Rashed, writing for Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, says that Obama’s experience as president will benefit the Middle East.

“In these difficult circumstances, it’s good that we do not face a new president who requires a ‘course’ in Middle East politics… Obama’s second term will likely be conciliatory considering the nomination of Hagel and Kerry as possible ministers. This is a positive thing, but who said the region is in a conciliatory mood?”

Meanwhile, Abdel Bari Atwan in Al-Quds Al-Arabi is much less optimistic about Obama’s second term, considering his inauguration speech.

“US President Barack Obama disappointed many of his allies in the Middle East by neglecting to mention any of them in his speech… more importantly, he completely shut the door on any military intervention, stressing that a decade of wars has ended and that the only way to peace is dialogue,” writes Atwan.

“President Obama’s message is very clear. In short, he said that he does not intend to militarily intervene in Syria; will not wage a war on Iran, succumbing to Israeli pressure; and will focus on rescuing his country from its crippling economic crisis.”

Fighting words between Assad and the international envoy

Quoting French sources, A-Sharq Al-Awsat quotes an exchange between Syrian President Bashar Assad and the international envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

According to the daily, Brahimi told Assad that he could not remain in power and that the opposition could defeat him, but the cost may be the complete destruction of Damascus. To that, Assad reportedly answered “I will win the war, even if Damascus is destroyed.”

The daily also reports a power outage which left Damascus and its environs in dark “for the first time since the start of the crisis.”

Meanwhile, Qatari-based news channel Al-Jazeera dedicates a report to what it dubs “UN shock from the humanitarian situation in Syria.” According to the report, the UN will soon launch a widespread aid campaign in Syria.

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