Biden’s Middle East Return Shows Stakes Couldn’t Be Higher

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Editorial U.S. President Joe Biden is due to arrive in the Middle East in mid-July, 18 months since he assumed office. Biden’s first official visit to the region, from 16-13 July, will see him stop first in Israel, where he will meet Israeli and Palestinian officials, before flying to Jeddah, to attend a summit dubbed the ‘GCC3+ Summit’, organised and hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the cover story, Dalia Ziada writes that the recent and dramatic shift in Biden’s stance towards the Middle East - from cold and distant, to warm and open – is evidence of a desperate effort to rescue the lost popularity of his administration and his Democratic Party. The stakes are high. All such trips by American presidents in recent years have been important. Each of them marked fundamental changes in the political and economic agendas of the region that eventually echoed the global policies of western countries, including the U.S. itself, Ziada said. In the politics section, Suzan Quitaz talks about the Karish gas rig which is a strategic asset the Israeli government will fight for, according to Israeli ministers amid threats from Lebanese and Hezbollah officials. Ruth Wasserman Lande, an Israeli diplomat, politician and a member of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, said, “The Shark gas rig which will be connected in the coming months is not part of the negotiations with Lebanon. It has never been part of the controversy and never will be.” Karish, which means shark in English, is located in a boundary area that has been the subject of complicated negotiations in recent years. Israel and Lebanon have a long-standing dispute over a wedge of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) measuring an -860sq.km triangle in the Mediterranean Sea, which would be about %2 of Israel›s economic water. The politics section also includes an analysis about the recent gas agreement between Egypt, Israel and the European Union under the umbrella of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. Mohammed al-Hadi said that with such a step, Egypt adds to the major natural gas discoveries it made over the years with new opportunities to liquefy Israeli gas in the Idku and Damietta gas terminals in Egypt and re-export it to Europe. Mohamed Ali Salih also discussed how many American officials and media outlets confirmed what many had expected: the war between Russia and Ukraine would continue for years – and, in the end, Russian would prevail. President Joe Biden was reported to have settled on long “personal war” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, not only to continue the type of personal – and insulting – diplomacy that he has been leading, but by predicting that Putin might not stay in power for a long time. In the society section, Salwa Samir talks about the Islamic Research Academy of Al-Azhar which has recently launched an initiative to confront the high costs of marriage in Egypt. The initiative called “Letaskono Elaiha”, is taken from a verse in Islam’s Holy book means, “You may find tranquillity in them”. As when God ordered people to get married and form families, he said the marriage must be a relationship based on affection and mercy, not on furniture and appliances. The initiative seeks to achieve a set of goals that eliminate the bad habits practiced in conducting weddings through extravagant costs. Read these articles and more on our website eng.majalla.com. As always, we welcome and value our readers’ feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments on our website.

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A Weekly Political News Magazine

20 Egypt, Israel Agree to Export Gas to European Union

Issue 1910- June- 24/06/2022

30 “Karish Gas Rig is NonNegotiable”

24 Syrian Regime Earns Money by Selling Syrian Passports Through Brokers

44 When Life Stands Still

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El Gouna Film Festival’s 6 th Edition

44 Has Been Postponed

A Space Tech Company Stumbled on a New Way to Cut Emissions on Earth

58 A New Angle on Aging in Place: The Virtual Village

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Egypt women’s team perform in swimming FINA World Championships The team of Egypt perform in women’s team technical preliminaries of artistic swimming of the 19th FINA World Championships in Hajos Alfred National Sports Swimming Pool in Budapest, Hungary, 19 June 2022. / EPA

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Mind Over Madness Yoga in New York People participate in the “Solstice in Times Square: Mind Over Madness Yoga” to celebrate the summer solstice in New York City, U.S., June 21, 2022. REUTERS

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LEBANON

EGYPT On Sharm el-Sheikh's sandy beaches many of the sun loungers lie empty. At a central promenade packed with shops, cafes, and nightclubs, crowds are thinner than usual. The resort on the southern tip of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula is reeling from the impact of the war in Ukraine, which has seen Ukrainians and Russians - previously among the town's top visitors - virtually disappear, tourism sector workers say. Their absence has delivered the latest in a series of shocks to a sector that accounts for up to 15% of gross domestic product and generates sorely needed foreign currency.

Lebanon, Syria and Egypt on Tuesday agreed to ship 650 million cubic meters of natural gas per year from Egypt to Lebanon via Syria, part of a U.S.-backed effort to address Lebanon's crippling blackouts with electricity and gas transfers. The deal, signed at a ceremony at the Lebanese energy ministry in Beirut, would see gas piped to Lebanon's northern Deir Ammar power plant, where it could add some 450 megawatts or around four extra hours of power per day to the grid. It still requires the approval of the World Bank, which has pledged to finance, and the United States for compliance with its Syria sanctions regime, Lebanon's caretaker energy minister Walid Fayad told Reuters.

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UAE The United Arab Emirates will build a new Red Sea port in Sudan, as part of a $6 billion investment package, said DAL group chairman Osama Daoud Abdellatif, a partner in the deal which marks the first major foreign investment since the military took power in an October coup. Abdellatif said the package includes a free trade zone, a large agricultural project, and an imminent $300 million deposit to Sudan's central bank.

IRAQ Nine people were shot dead in Iraq on Wednesday during two separate incidents involving tribal clashes that saw a soldier killed in the south of the country, police said. Six people, including the soldier, were killed during a clash between two tribes sparked by a dispute over agricultural land, said Saad al-Zaidi, police spokesman for the area. The violence in al-Uzair district, south of Amarah in the southeastern province of Maysan, lasted several hours, Zaidi told AFP. The soldier was from one of the two tribes and had been “on leave when the conflict broke out because of disputes over farmland,” he added.

IRAN Iran is escalating its uranium enrichment further by preparing to use advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its underground Fordow site that can more easily switch between enrichment levels, a United Nations nuclear watchdog report showed. The move is the latest of several steps Iran had long threatened to take but held off carrying out until 30 of the 35 countries on the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors backed a resolution this month criticizing it for failing to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites. With indirect U.S.-Iran talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal long-stalled, any further escalation in Tehran's standoff with the West risks killing off hopes of reining in the Islamic republic's nuclear advances and lifting U.S. sanctions against it.

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A WEEK ACROS MEXICO.

U.S. Andrea Fuentes prevented a tragedy at the swimming world championships with her quick reaction. The United States coach knew something was wrong when she saw artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez sink motionless to the bottom of the pool during a solo free routine on Wednesday. The fully clothed Fuentes dived in. She swam to the unresponsive Alvarez, put her arms around her, and lifted her to the water’s surface, where another person helped get her out of the pool.

Well before many roads were paved in Mexico’s remote Tarahumara mountains, Jesuit priest Javier Campos crisscrossed the area on a motorcycle. During five decades ministering to its impoverished communities, his familiar imitation of a rooster and love of singing earned him the nickname “Gallo.” His colleague Joaquín Mora was often at his side during the past 20 of those years, during which drug cartels tightened their grip on the region, filling the mountains with opium poppy and marijuana. Together they brought a moral authority to balance the outsized influence of drug traffickers, their fellow priests said. The two priests, age 79 and 80, respectively, were shot to death in the small church on Cerocahui’s town square Monday, along with a tourist guide they tried to protect from a local criminal boss. The killer, who President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday had been identified, took their bodies.

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AFGHANISTAN

An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 at least 280 people in Afghanista early on Wednesday, officials said adding that hundreds of people w injured and the toll was likely to r information trickled in from remo mountain villages. The quake struck about 44 km (27 miles) from the city of Khost, nea Pakistani border, the U.S. Geologi Survey (USGC) said. "Strong and long jolts," a resident the Afghan capital, Kabul, posted the website of the European Mediterranean Seismological Cen (EMSC).


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UKRAINE. CHINA.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that Ankara was investigating claims that Ukrainian grain has been stolen by Russia and shipped to countries including Turkey, but added the probes had not found any stolen shipments so far. Kyiv's ambassador to Ankara said in early June that Turkish buyers were among those receiving grain that Russia had stolen from Ukraine, adding he had sought Turkey's help to identify and capture individuals responsible for the alleged shipments. Russia has previously denied allegations that it has stolen Ukrainian grain.

Two provinces in south China upgraded flood warnings on Tuesday as rivers overflowed their banks and waters reached record levels, forcing people from their homes and disrupting work after weeks of pounding rain, state media reported. Guangdong province's Shaoguan city, where average rainfall since late May has broken records, raised its flood alert to the highest, Level 1. Authorities asked residents of communities along river banks and in low-lying neighborhoods to move to higher ground after floodwaters hit a 50-year high, state television reported.

INDIA. Villagers in northeastern Bangladesh crowded makeshift refugee centers and scrambled to meet boats arriving with food and fresh water as massive floods, which have killed dozens of people and displaced hundreds of thousands there and in neighboring India, continued to wreak havoc Tuesday.

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over story

Biden’s Middle East Return Shows Stakes Couldn’t Be Higher Is the US Back on Course? When U.S. President Joe Biden finally arrives in the Middle East in mid-July, it will be 18 months since he assumed office. They say ‘a week is a long time in politics’. A year and a half in the geostrategic relations of the Middle East is an eternity.

By Dalia Ziada

Biden’s first official visit to the region, from 13-16 July, will see him stop first in Israel, where he will meet Israeli and Palestinian officials, before flying to Jeddah, to attend a summit dubbed the ‘GCC+3 Summit’, or-

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ganised and hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Here, Biden will meet the leaders of all six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - plus those of Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan. His to-do list is much bigger than simply attending meetings, however. There are plenty of states he must win over – and plenty to fight for. The recent and dramatic shift in Biden’s stance towards the Middle East - from cold and distant, to warm and open – is evidence of a desperate effort to rescue the lost popularity of his administration and his Democratic Party. The stakes are high. All such trips by American presidents in recent years have been important. Each of them marked fundamental changes in the political and economic agendas of the region that eventually echoed the global policies of western countries, including the U.S. itself.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal (2nd R) welcomes US Vice President Joe Biden (C) at the Riyadh airbase on October 2011 ,27, upon his arrival in the Saudi capital with a US official delegation to offer condolences to the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz following the death of his brother, Crown Prince Sultan. BY AFP/GETTY IMAGES.

Yet, this visit feels different. Whereas in the past the U.S. was, if not driving the train, up front setting its course. Now, for the first time, it feels as if Biden simply wants the U.S. to board this metaphorical train of change, which is now moving under its own steam, at a speed and in a direction set by the regional capitals themselves. With the western world’s attention understandably diverted by war in Ukraine, this fundamental shift has gone largely unnoticed. Most agree that the new driver is Washington’s oldest regional ally, Saudi Arabia, which President Biden unjustifiably said would be “a [human rights] pariah” in the immediate aftermath of the killing in Turkey of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which the CIA said was probably ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Biden’s comments seemed designed to please his left-leaning voters back at home, where political attention spans can be short. In the Middle East, however, such comments linger, and are remembered long after they are made.

BALLOT BOX REDEMPTION The 18 months it has taken for the 79-year-old

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The recent and dramatic shift in Biden’s stance towards the Middle East is evidence of a desperate effort to rescue the lost popularity of his administration and his Democratic Party. Biden to visit has been marked by big economic problems and dubious decisions in the realms of foreign and defence policy. It may also have taken almost two years for his administration to realise that the success or otherwise of his time in office may be closely correlated to what he can achieve in the Middle East, as was the case with most of the former administrations. The lack of any big triumphs on the world stage as he approaches the middle of his fouryear term may begin to unnerve members of his Democratic Party, who will be out competing in the mid-term elections for Congress and the Senate in November. It may also reflect badly on his party’s chances in the next presidential elections in 2024. Biden’s declining approval ratings suggest as much. The latest survey by the Politico and the Morning Consult, from 4-5 June, found that 58 percent of voters disapprove of the president’s job performance, the lowest such rating since he took office. Ironically, his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who was battling the Covid pandemic, fared better in national satisfaction surveys around the same point in his reign. With the war in Ukraine turning ugly, the White House incumbent needs a big foreign policy win soon. If the Abraham Accords, which thawed relations between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors, was Trump’s chef-d’oeuvre, and if the nuclear deal was former Democratic President Barack Obama’s, then what is Biden’s? What will be his accomplishment or masterstroke? To-date, his main effect on the region has been to tinker with the decisions of Trump.


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This has led to muddled policies benefitting neither the U.S. nor its regional allies. Exhibit A is Biden’s appeasement of Iran, angering America’s historical allies in the Arab Gulf region. Exhibit B was the Biden administration’s snail-pace response to the war that erupted in Gaza just four months after he took office. And Exhibit C, perhaps most telling of all, was the hasty and chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which led to the loss of hundreds of lives, paved the way for Taliban’s second coming, and opened the door to the region’s terrorists. To-date, these comprise his Middle East legacy.

If the Abraham Accords, which thawed relations between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors, was Trump’s chef-d’oeuvre, and if the nuclear deal was former Democratic President Barack Obama’s, then what is Biden’s?

DISAPPOINTED MIDDLE EAST There are several items on the agenda of the GCC+3 Summit that Biden will prioritise. They include: efforts to block threats to regional security, especially from Iran; the potential for more Arab countries to normalise ties with Israel; progress on improving human rights conditions in Arab states; and regional solutions to global food and energy crises, exacerbated by war in Ukraine. Yet Biden’s main aim from the visit should be to fix strained ties with key Arab countries and find ways to regain their trust. If he succeeds, his administration will benefit from what the region can offer to ease the global crises - solutions that the U.S. cannot find on its own. The outstretched arms are far removed from his early days in office, when Biden divorced himself from the headaches of the Middle East and chose to review all Trump’s decisions regarding Arab Gulf countries, including the crucial arms sales deals Trump approved to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Months before, during the presidential election campaign, Biden was vague on Middle East policy, save for the repetition of Obamaera platitudes. He even had harsh words towards Riyadh and Cairo. Against these beginnings, his Afghan withdrawal was no surprise.

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US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the October jobs report at the White House in Washington, D.C., US, on November 2021 ,5. (Reuters)


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 2021 ,14. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP, File)

Upon touchdown, he will find that much has changed. Today, the participation of the United States as a leading partner to Middle East countries in handling regional challenges is both less necessary and less urgent. During the perceived 18-month U.S. absence from the region, countries began building new geopolitical structures to deal with their own problems and lead their own future. Within these, Saudi Arabia plays the most influential role.

the global turmoil, the Middle East has realised that it can survive without U.S. help and the U.S. has realised that its prosperity is tied to the economic and geostrategic power of the Middle East. All this makes Biden’s courtship of regional capitals that much more important. He will know that most states in the Middle East, including non-Arab countries, had hoped that Donald Trump would win a second term. The pragmatic approach of the Trump administration relied on personal diplomacy, employing a political language that the region’s leaders knew, understood, and responded to. Direct, back-channel communication from and to the White House created opportunities and limited threats, namely from Iran. To succeed on his visit, Biden could do worse than follow the blueprint of his predecessor.

Early signs are positive, with regional disputes between Arab countries having already been successfully resolved by Gulf reconciliation. Likewise, long-term diplomatic tension between Arab and non-Arab states in the Middle East – including Turkey and Israel – have either been resolved or brought to the negotiating table. Even the difficult topic of normalising ties between Israel and other Arab countries, without the involvement of the United States as a facilitator, is becoming increasingly feasible.

WINNING BACK TO SAUDI ARABIA

Some think Biden has realised that he is hurting U.S. interests by withdrawing from the Middle East, arguing instead for the reallocation of U.S. resources to confront China. Yet in this evolving world order, U.S. power and interests are increasingly dependent on the wellbeing of the Middle East, not the other way around. Amidst

Key to success will be Riyadh. The U.S. cannot afford to lose Saudi Arabia as a partner. The role of Saudi Arabia in the global energy crisis is just one example of this truism. Yet there are others. Security challenges in and from states like Yemen, Iran, and Afghanistan, as well as the economic crises in several Arab countries, all

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evidence this. Add to that the fracture of Egypt and Syria as the main complementary poles responsible for keeping the region in balance, and the growing reliance on Arab Gulf monarchies in designing and leading the future of the Middle East, and Biden’s mission becomes clear. Saudi Arabia’s main role over the next phase of geopolitical development will be in leading the formation of new coalitions, whose purpose will include the defence and security of the region. Such coalitions will prove to be directionsetting. One proposed tie-up, which excites analysts with its potential, comprises Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Turkey. This four-pronged team, currently in the very early stages of formation, would have the ability to contain most of the region’s threats, in part owing to the four

Saudi Arabia’s main role over the next phase of geopolitical development will be in leading the formation of new coalitions, whose purpose will include the defence and security of the region.

countries’ geographic locations at three strategic regional gateways, in part owing to their combined military, diplomatic, and economic heft. In other areas, the Saudi leadership has been quietly using its experience to fix strained ties with neighbouring non-Arab countries, in the knowledge that confidence-building in foreign relations takes time. Saudi Arabia’s young leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), seems to understand the size of the challenge and is actively preparing both himself and his country to meet it. In this, the U.S. could have been more helpful. In his face-to-face meeting with Biden, MBS may raise the issue of recent U.S. choices, such as the review - immediately after Biden’s inauguration in January 2021 – of Trump’s decision to designate the Houthis in Yemen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The following day, the U.S. State Department suspended arms and ammunition sales that Trump agreed with Saudi Arabia. Biden also temporarily paused the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, signed in a contract with Lockheed Martin during Trump’s tenure. Last, but not least, is Biden’s move to revive talks with Iran on the nuclear deal, and to ease the suffocating economic sanctions imposed by Trump. These choices have had real-world consequenc-

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meet at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, June 2022 ,22. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/ Handout via REUTERS


The leaders of countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) pose for a group picture following their summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Dec. 2021 ,14. (Bandar Aljaloud, Saudi Royal Palace via AP)

es. In the past year, missile and drone attacks launched by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia have intensified, targeting strategic economic sites in the main Saudi cities. More recently, the Houthis have expanded their operations to hit targets in the UAE, including an oil facility close to Abu Dhabi Airport. Would this have happened had the White House not halted the arms sales? The idea of an American president adopting policies that militarily weaken his Middle East allies while empowering his Middle East enemies seems, at best, illogical. According to the White House, Biden will meet MBS at the GCC+3 Summit in Jeddah. Arguably, this face-to-face encounter is the most important of the whole visit. If all goes well, it will mark a new era in the Saudi-U.S. relationship, help to erase the effects of flawed policies todate, and serve the interests of both countries. The stakes are high.

A LESSON FROM HISTORY The context is monumental. A century ago, two world wars led to the death of an old world order and the birth of a new one, with the emergence of the United Nations, and the great power rivalry between Washington and Moscow, which ultimately left the U.S. enjoying cultural, economic, political, and military hegemony across the world. How times change. The balance of

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The 18 months it has taken for the 79 -year-old Biden to visit has been marked by big economic problems and dubious decisions in the realms of foreign and defence policy. power moves. Influence wanes. Tectonic plates shift. Empires rise and fall. A succession of crises – in health, finance, and war – has led to seismic shifts similar in feel to those of a century ago. It is on this wave that Biden surfs. It is still within his power to keep the U.S. in a leadership position. Likewise, he can open the door for eastern rivals – Russia and China – to challenge as superpowers. It all depends on the decisions he makes, on the partners and allies he keeps. The policies his administration adopts towards the Middle East over the next two years will be a crucial moment in this worldwide game of chess. * Dalia Ziada is an Egyptian author and Director of the Liberal Democracy Institute. Her work covers military affairs, political Islamism, and geopolitics in the Middle East and North Africa. Tweets at @ daliaziada.


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Egypt, Israel Agree to Export Gas to European Union

Cairo Lays First Stone in Transformation to a Regional Energy Hub By: Mohammed al-Hadi

Idku and Damietta gas terminals in Egypt and re-export it to Europe.

Egypt has set sail with its plan to transform into a regional energy hub after signing a tripartite memorandum of understanding in the field of gas trade, transport and export with Israel and the European Union under the umbrella of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. With such a step, Egypt adds to the major natural gas discoveries it made over the years with new opportunities to liquefy Israeli gas in the

The signing came as Cairo hosts the seventh ministerial meeting of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. The event was inaugurated by Natasha Pilides, Cypriot Minister of Energy and head of the current session of the forum, via video conference. The forum is moderated by Eng. Tarek El Molla, Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources,

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who is the alternate president of the forum during 2022. As President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received the ministers of the countries of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, he said that the current impact of the energy sector is on a global scale, and he confirmed the insightful strategic vision of establishing the forum years ago. Sisi added that the gas resources in the East Mediterranean are a motive for cooperation, peace and development for the benefit of the peoples of the region. Meanwhile, Molla stressed that the signing represents a key step towards building the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, which kicked off four years ago. He added that the forum could be a building block for boosting cooperation among the member states of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum and the participants in its activities, including the EU.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen looks on as EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Tarek El Molla and Israeli Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources Karine Elharrar sign an agreement during a ministerial meeting of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) in Cairo, Egypt, June 2022 ,15. (Photo: REUTERS/ Shokry Hussien)

As President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received the ministers of the countries of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, he said that the current impact of the energy sector is on a global scale. at the COP 27 next November and done for the sake of people around the world.

Egyptian Exports

As for Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, she considered the signing to be an important message for the success of cooperation under the umbrella of the Forum, which confirms its pivotal role in securing part of the energy supply to Europe. She also noted that the fruitful cooperation enables optimal utilization of the region’s potential, and supports the role of Egypt and Israel as important players in the gas market.

During Q1 2022, Egypt was able to export $3.9 billion worth of LNG due to the rise in international prices. This transaction added to the successes of last year when Egypt was able to export five million tons of LNG (an increase of 770%) thanks to the restart of the Damietta liquefaction plant last February. This was made possible after a settlement agreement between the several owners of the complex which had not been operational for about eight years.

Speaking at the Forum, Elharrar said that geopolitical events in Eastern Europe have had a strong impact on the energy industry, adding that natural gas is characterized by low emissions. She also underlined the need to play an important role in the transition to new and renewable energies, and the expansion of the use of green hydrogen as the fuel of the future.

The ownership of the plant was divided between the Spanish company, Union Fenosa Gas (UFG), with a 40% stake, and the Italian company, Eni, with a 40% stake, in addition to 20% distributed equally between the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC).

European Applause Under the export agreement, the EU encourages European companies to participate in excavation bids in Israel and Egypt, as well as to finance the development of energy infrastructure in both countries and work with them to reduce methane emissions. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, stressed that the signing comes at a difficult time for the Union, as it seeks securing reliable sources of energy supply in light of the current changes taking place. Von der Leyen added that an efficient investment emphasizes the implementation of energy projects and the provision of new balanced resources to consumers, especially clean energy resources and the expansion of hydrogen use as the energy of the future. She explained that the EU is currently cooperating in the development of the hydrogen strategy in Egypt, which will be launched

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The Egyptian government had stopped the flow of gas to the plant in 2012 and diverted production to the local market due to the lack of supplies at the time. Meanwhile, the Spanish company entered into arbitration with the government that ended with an agreement to change ownership so that the project was 50% owned by Eni, 40% by EGAS, and 10% by EGPC. Egypt also has another LNG complex, Idku, with a production capacity of 7.2 million tons per year. It is a project in partnership between EGPC (12%), EGAS (12%), BG, which was acquired by Shell (35.5%), Malaysia’s Petronas (35.5%), and France’s ENGIE, formerly Gaz de France (5%). Egypt imports natural gas from the Israeli fields in the eastern Mediterranean to its liquefaction plants to be compressed, then loaded on to ships and re-exported.


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Through such a method, the Egyptian and Israeli gas will be transported to the EU as there are no natural gas transmission pipelines for the process. Since March 2022, the volume of Israeli gas imported by Egypt and then reexported has increased from 450 million cubic feet per day to 650 million cubic feet per day. Egypt ranked first in the Arab world during Q3 2021 in terms of the volume of LNG exports. Meanwhile, it held the fourth place in gas production in general during the same period at about 5.6 billion cubic feet per day, accounting for 11% of the production of Arab countries. On the other hand, Israel owns the Tamar field. Production there began in 2013 and the volume of its reserves is about 238 billion. Israel’s second field, Leviathan, discovered in 2010, contains 535 billion cubic meters of natural gas, in addition to 34 million barrels of condensate.

Molla stressed that the signing represents a key step towards building the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, which kicked off four years ago.

Huge Investment Dr. Rashad Abdu, an economic expert, says that Egypt will, in accordance with the tripartite cooperation with the EU and Israel, receive gas from Israel in the form of gas, provide for its liquefaction through the two Egyptian liquefaction stations, and then its shipment to Europe. He explained that the Israelis do not have liquefaction stations, nor are there natural gas transmission pipelines through which gas can be transported at present. Egypt’s two LNG stations in Damietta and Idku boast many advantages. Having been built 18 years ago at an average cost of $250 per ton of LNG makes them unmatched by any competition, in light of the cost of building an LNG station today, which is about $1,500 per ton, especially after the price of one million units rose globally to the $8.5 level. Abdu told Majalla that the Egyptian economy will achieve significant gains as a result of this cooperation, in terms of raising exports while boosting dollar resources. This comes in light of the current gas prices and the challenges of providing capital internally because of the Russian-Ukrainian war that has lowered tourism revenues as well as existing investments in bills and bonds, in addition to the high cost of importing from abroad. He pointed out that European countries are currently in dire need of gas, with supply chain problems arising from Russia.

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The Astora natural gas depot, which is the largest natural gas storage in Western Europe, is pictured in Rehden, Germany, March ,16 2022. REUTERS/ Fabian Bimmer


The production platform of Leviathan natural gas field is seen in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Haifa, northern Israel June 2021 ,9. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Egypt has invested EGP1.2 trillion in the petroleum sector as of the end of April 2022, as part of its plan to transform into a regional hub for oil and natural gas trade and circulation. Of this amount, EGP 778 billion is allocated for projects that have started operation. The current period seems favorable for Egypt to achieve its goals in the presence of a huge market such as the EU, which consumes (not counting Britain) about 560 billion cubic liters with an annual increase rate of 20%. Khaled El-Shafei, head of the Capital Center for Economic Studies, said that over the course of eight years, Egypt witnessed 375 new gas discoveries to achieve selfsufficiency in 2018 and reclaim its position on the global map for the export of LNG. The list of countries that import from Egypt has now expanded to 20 countries. He added to Majalla that Egypt’s imports used to stand at more than $3 billion annually. However, after the political leadership directed the need to pay attention to the discoveries, its exports have been at about $4 billion. The agreement reinforces Egypt’s plan to transform into a regional energy hub, especially as the EU needs Egyptian-Israeli gas as an alternative for Russian gas.

Time Frame For Medhat Youssef, former deputy head of the

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During Q2022 1, Egypt was able to export $ 3.9 billion worth of LNG due to the rise in international prices. General Petroleum Corporation, the long-term agreement is similar to the previous agreement currently in force, with a daily supply rate of 500 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. It primarily proves Egypt’s technical and logistical capabilities to assume its position as a regional hub for trading natural gas in the East Mediterranean region. Cairo has a complex network of natural gas lines, in addition to two giant liquefaction stations in Damietta and Idku, and facilities for storing, handling and shipping liquefied gas. He added to Majalla that European countries are currently seeking to get LNG from a central point on the nearby Mediterranean Sea, and they chose Egypt due to its proximity. All the regional countries have also jumped in to sign cooperation and partnership agreements and to exploit Egypt’s capabilities to export its untapped natural gas. What they lack in export capabilities, Egypt boasts an abundance


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Syrian Regime Earns Money by Selling Syrian Passports Through Brokers Syrians to Majalla: “In Absence of Monitoring, There Is No Choice but Brokers” By Jiwan Soz – Qamishli Syrians suffer from a new problem, namely, the difficulty of obtaining passports, whether inside or outside their country, as it takes a long time and costs a lot of money. Its cost has become the highest in the world, as the cost of issuing one passport reaches more than two thousand US dollars inside Syrian territory and about half of this amount abroad, despite the official fee for obtaining a passport being much less than these two amounts. The Syrian regime’s Ministry of Interior launched a

digital platform at the beginning of this year to obtain an appointment to request a passport and to organize the procedure for those wishing to obtain it. However, what happened was contrary to expectations, as people expected that organizing appointments electronically would save them from paying additional bribes, but the outcome disappointed them. “The electronic platform launched by the Ministry of Interior months ago is just a decoration,” said a Syrian woman who works as a teaching assistant at Damascus University’s Faculty of Arts. “I requested an appointment to obtain a passport at Damascus’ Immi-

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A migrant holds his passport and train ticket in Freilassing, Germany September 15, 2015. Credit: Reuters

gration and Passports office, but my appointment was in January 2024, which means I would have to wait about two years until the date of the passport application comes,” she continued. “Giving late appointments after two years activates the market of brokers who work with immigration, passport, and security branch employees, and they demand exorbitant amounts of money and hard currency,” the assistant professor told Majalla. The university professor received her passport before her scheduled date of two years later after paying $2,000 to a person who works with an employee inside the Immigration and Passports building, who aided in the process of obtaining the passport so that it was issued in just two months. The professor emphasized that the Department of Immigration and Passports is attempting to create barriers for any passport applicant to earn money from them, especially since chaos reigns in the country and there is no control in it against the backdrop of the war that has lasted nearly 11 years, giving the passport an added value because it allows the holder to flee the city. Majalla was unable to obtain comment from Immigration and Passports Department employees, but a university student from Al-Hasakah governorate who lives in Damascus told us: “In this place, you can get everything if you pay, even if you are wanted by the security forces.” On the other hand, a young man in his thirties who is returning to university after taking a year off to serve in the Syrian regime’s army confirmed that, “Many brokers have become more important than employees, especially those who have links with senior officials with whom they share passport proceeds.” This university student has been unable to obtain a passport until now because he lacks the funds required by the brokers in exchange for a passport as soon as possible. In this regard, he said, “I got an appointment from the platform, but my appointment is set for December 2023, and I have no choice but to wait, especially since I will not travel tomorrow if I get my passport today.” “The passport has become a necessity, as it is the only way for me to leave the country and improve my situation,” he added. Less than a month ago, the Syrian regime’s Min-

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The Syrian regime’s Ministry of Interior launched a digital platform at the beginning of this year to obtain an appointment to request a passport and to organize the procedure for those wishing to obtain it. istry of Interior raised the cost of obtaining a passport from 100,000 Syrian pounds to 300,000 Syrian pounds, or about $25 to $75. Although many people attended appointments months ago through booking on the Ministry’s digital platform, they nevertheless did not get their passports yet. Furthermore, three Syrian workers planning to relocate from Aleppo to Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, stated that: “The fees for obtaining a passport in Syrian pounds are also high, as it is equivalent to what we earn in three months.” The fees for the Syrian passport vary depending on whether it is applied for normally or urgently, but in both cases, there are those who cannot obtain it, especially since it is equivalent to the salary of a government employee for several months. According to another worker: “The Syrian passport is perhaps the worst in the world in terms of not allowing its holder to enter most countries without a visa, but it is still the most expensive in the world.” He went on to urge the Syrian regime to make it easier to obtain passports: “For example, passport fees should vary from person to person based on annual or monthly income and profession.” With the platform providing late dates, those who need the passport quickly have no choice but to pay the brokers, especially since the deadline for submitting applications for an urgent passport has recently been extended for several months. A young Syrian woman revealed that she applied for an urgent passport eight months ago but has yet to receive it. On her part, Laila Haidar, a young Syrian woman who lives in the slums of Khirbet Al Ward, said: “I have no choice but to use a broker connected to the immigration and passport offices. I’ve found a job abroad and need to travel as soon as possible.”


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“Right now, I’m negotiating with the company I’ll be working with abroad to pay an advance so that I can get the passport because it will cost more than $2,000,” she told Majalla. Aside from the big brokers, other people are trying to make money after getting early dates on the digital platform and selling them to others by giving the beneficiary a legal power of attorney. This procedure is carried out after a person receives an early appointment in his name. However, he can obtain a legal power of attorney from another person and apply for a passport instead. Hembervan Kose, a Syrian journalist, stated: “The difficulty in obtaining a passport is no longer the only issue. These difficulties have existed and have become routine since the start of the Syrian revolu-

“Giving late appointments after two years activates the market of brokers who work with immigration, passport, and security branch employees, and they demand exorbitant amounts of money and hard currency.”

tion in 2011, particularly after the closure of consulates and embassies in most countries around the world. However, today the issue is more complex because the regime’s transformation into a brokerage regime which is cooperating with brokers to obtain the passport is complicating the matter.” “The passport in the case of brokerage requires a salary of two and a half months for the majority of Syrians in the Kurdistan region, and the Syrians are obliged to pay these amounts, because the work permit in the region is granted based on the passport. For each day of delay, the Syrian is fined the sum of 20,000 Iraqi dinars, and this is an additional problem,” he further explained to Majalla. According to Kose: “The Syrian regime also imposes many conditions for obtaining a passport, including the power of attorney for a lawyer in Syria, a video clip in Erbil, as well as receiving direct contact with an Immigration and Passport officer via video technology, and this takes additional time and causes pressure.” Concerning the most prominent issues with Syrian passports obtained in the Kurdistan region, the Syrian journalist notes that: “A while ago, all passports were granted without the passport holder’s fingerprints or signature, and the absence of fingerprints and signatures caused many problems for the Syrians, among them is the refusal of a number of consulates to grant visas for family reunification and other purposes, as well as their demand for a signature or fingerprint, which is difficult for Syrians due

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A refugee shows the Syrian passport at the border check point in the village of Szentgotthard, Hungary September 14, 2015. Credit: Reuters


Syrian refugees queue up at a UNHCR registration center, one of many across Lebanon, in the northern port city of Tripoli on April 3, 2014. Credit: AFP

to the absence of an embassy in Erbil.” On the other hand, three Syrian refugees living in Germany on a temporary annual residency visa said they were unable to renew their passports at the Syrian regime’s embassy in Berlin. One of them stated that he went to the Belgian capital, Brussels, but was unable to obtain a passport because his primary place of residence in Europe is outside Belgian territory. “It is necessary to obtain a passport because my residency will expire in a few months and I will be unable to renew it until I obtain a new one,” he said. “I call the Syrian embassy in Paris every day to try to get a passport, but no one answers my calls,” he continued. The Syrian regime recently increased the fees for obtaining passports, but no one is obligated to pay these amounts, especially since the vast majority of passport applicants obtain them through brokers linked to Immigration and Passport Department employees. The Syrian passport crisis has worsened since last August, nearly a year ago, with the regime unable to find radical solutions despite the high percentage of those wishing to travel abroad and those waiting for passports after applying for them. The Department of Immigration and Passports headquarters in Syria had previously announced the failure of the electronic platform dedicated to booking appointments and roles

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“The difficulty in obtaining a passport is no longer the only issue.” for obtaining passports, without explaining the reasons for the malfunction or the time required to fix it. The regime’s Ministry of Interior previously announced on its official Facebook page that it had arrested eight people who were receiving large sums of money totaling 2 million Syrian pounds (equivalent to more than $500) in exchange for obtaining passports for people who needed them as soon as possible. According to the ministry, four other people were arrested for accepting money in exchange for an appointment at one of the Immigration and Passports offices. The Syrian passport occupies a low rank in the list of passports around the world that allow holders to reach destinations without a prior visa, according to the Henley Passport Index for ranking passports globally. *Jiwan Soz is a researcher and journalist who focuses on Turkish affairs and minorities in the Middle East. He is also a member of Syndicat National des Journalistes (National Syndicate of Journalists [SNJ]).


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Ukraine War like Korea’s

Continuing for Years with DMZ? By Mohammad Ali Salih – Washington Last week, many American officials and media outlets confirmed what many had expected: the war between Russia and Ukraine would continue for years – and, in the end, Russian would prevail. President Joe Biden was reported to have settled on long “personal war” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, not only to continue the type of personal – and insulting – diplomacy that he has been leading, but by predicting that Putin might not stay in power for a long time. Recent reports show that Biden is planning to run again for the presidency in two years’ time, although he will be -82years-old, in addition to his already seemingly fragile health, made it look like a battle of survival between him and Putin. Biden’s decision to send to Ukraine sophisticated arms, such as anti-ship missiles and long-range mobile artillery that will be capable of destroying the heavy Russian military weapons, or of striking deep into Russia, reflects his growing willingness to confront Putin for the long haul. Glad to hear Biden’s determination, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as he vowed last week to retake all of Russian-controlled Ukraine, even areas annexed long before the February invasion. “We’re here to dig in our spurs,” American Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week, after meeting with dozens of European counterparts. But many American commentators have been saying that despite the surge in American military aid and strong morale among Ukrainian troops, the war would continue for a long time because of Russia’s far bigger, better armed military. They also said that unlike Russia’s failed attempt to seize the capital Kyiv, the Donbas region’s battle has played to Russia’s military strengths, allowing it to use traditional artillery strikes to pound Ukrainian positions and gradually expand its reach.

For how many years? Many commentators believe the war is likely to settle into a lower intensity conflict, like that in the Korean Peninsula. After the 1953 armistice, without a formal end of the war, the North and the South established a demilitarized zone (DMZ). Although heavily-armed and with occasional flare-ups, it could be an example of the borders between Ukraine and its Donbas region that has been – and is being -- taken by Russia. Following are excerpts from statements and opinions by three American commentators, from their tweets, websites and media reports: First, “Realism will win,” said Stephen Walt, Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, and author of many books, including “The Hell of Good Intentions: America›s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy.” Second, “Just the beginning of a long war,” said Max Hastings, a commentator with New York-based Bloomberg News. Third, “Land-locked Ukraine, no Black Sea access,” predicted Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO who now heads the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Stephen Walt: “Realism will win”: “Why Do People Hate Realism So Much? The school of thought doesn’t explain everything— but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted … The political scientist Robert Gilpin once wrote that “no one loves a political realist.”

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His lament seems especially apt today, as the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine has spawned an uptick of realism-bashing... Much of this ire has been directed at my colleague and occasional co-author John J. Mearsheimer, based in part on the bizarre claim that his views on the West’s role in helping to cause the Russia-Ukraine crisis somehow make him “proPutin” and in part on some serious misreading of his theory of offensive realism. Another obvious target is former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose recent comments urging peace talks with Moscow, a territorial compromise in Ukraine, and the need to avoid a permanent rupture with Russia were seen as a revealing demonstration of realism’s moral bankruptcy … The irony here is hard to miss. Realists of various stripes repeatedly warned that Western policy toward Russia and Ukraine would lead to serious trouble, warnings that were blithely ignored by those who claimed that NATO’s open-door policy would lead to lasting peace in Europe... Now that war has broken out, lives are being lost, and Ukraine is being destroyed, you would think proponents of open-ended NATO enlargement would have set aside their idealistic illusions and think about these issues in a hard-nosed, realist fashion …”

Max Hastings: “Just the beginning of a long war”: “Deliver us from evil. The line is among the most familiar, in one of the oldest Christian prayers. Most of us are wary about using the E-word, because grownup people know that few issues, or indeed people, can rightfully be characterized as either wholly good or the other thing, but instead exist somewhere between. Yet, it seems hard to consider Russian President Vladimir Putin as anything other than a force for evil. He is personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Ukraine through an act of unprovoked aggression, designed to fulfill a vision of national and personal greatness that has no foundation in law or morality. At least as appalling, through his strangulation of Ukrainian grain shipments he is inflicting hunger and threatening starvation upon a growing portion of the Southern Hemisphere. People like me, who assert skepticism about the prospects of Ukrainian victory, are widely derided as at best “ultra-realists” … In a famous, or rather notorious, address to a committee of the Prussian parliament in 1862, Otto von Bismarck said: “Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided” but by “Blut und Eisen” — blood and iron. We like to believe that civilized 21st-century societies have advanced beyond such brutish doctrine. Yet Putin

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President Joe Biden was reported to have settled on long “personal war” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, not only to continue the type of personal – and insulting – diplomacy that he has been leading. is attempting to demonstrate that he can exploit extreme violence to secure a vastly larger role on the world stage than Russia’s economic and political stature confers …”

Ivo Daalder: “Land-locked Ukraine”: “This battlefield impasse leaves the US with a stark choice: either continue to help Ukraine sustain a potentially bloody status quo, with the devastating global consequences that entails; or halt support and permit Russia to prevail. If the US will withdraw its support, that would mean feeding Ukraine to the wolves. And no one is

prepared to do that … Russia’s war on Ukraine has been a military disaster. It has failed to occupy Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s two largest cities, and its progress in the Donbas has been slow, coming at extraordinary costs. But these failures shouldn’t obscure the fact that Russian forces have also made important strategic gains — not least by cutting off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea. While failing in the north, Russia has swiftly occupied large swaths of southern Ukraine, securing much of the coastline along the Sea of Azov, establishing the long-sought land bridge between Russia and Crimea … Russia’s ultimate aim is to extend Russian territorial control along the entire northern coast of the Black Sea, turning a reduced Ukraine into a land-locked country … Ukraine is determined to prevent this from happening. But even if Russia ultimately fails to secure territorial control of the northern Black Sea, Ukraine won’t be able to break Russia’s block on shipping in and out of the country …”


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“Karish Gas Rig is Non-Negotiable” Hezbollah Unnecessarily Projects Itself as Defender of Lebanon’s Interests

By Suzan Quitaz The Karish gas rig is a strategic asset which the Israeli government will fight for, Israeli ministers said amid threats from Lebanese and Hezbollah officials. Ruth Wasserman Lande, an Israeli diplomat, politician and a member of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, said, “The Shark gas rig which will be connected in the coming months is not part of the negotiations with Lebanon. It has never been part of the controversy and never will be.” Karish, which means shark in English, is located in a

boundary area that has been the subject of complicated negotiations in recent years. Israel and Lebanon have a long-standing dispute over a wedge of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) measuring an -860sq.km triangle in the Mediterranean Sea, which would be about %2 of Israel’s economic water. The dispute between the two countries started over a decade ago and efforts continued for years to find a reasonably satisfactory outcome. During talks in late 2020, the US brought Lebanese and Israeli officials to Nakoura, a city in southern Lebanon near Rosh Hanikra in Israel, for indirect negotiations over the

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maritime border. Israel entered the talks agreeing to split the area 58:42 in favour of Lebanon. During the talks of 2020, Lebanon sought to expand its EEZ claim to the south by another 1,430 square kilometres, known as line 29 boundary claim, including half of the Karish field. For Israel, the matter is non-negotiable as Lebanon never filed a maritime claim to the area surrounding Karish with the United Nations. In February 2022, the Lebanon government abandoned its previous claim based on ‘Line 23 along the Cypriot EEZ line and revived its demands to expand to ‘Line 29’ to the waters containing the Karish field, now that Israel is poised to develop it. In a joint statement, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar said that “The rig will not pump gas from the disputed territory However, the State of Israel prioritises the protection of its strategic assets, and is prepared to defend them and the security of its infrastructure, all in accordance with its rights”. Energean working in the Karish oil field, offshore Israel, in 2020. (Screen capture/YouTube)

On June 5, Lebanon objected to the arrival of a vessel, Energen Power, to work on Israel’s Karish field. The Energen Power Corporation is London-based but Greek-owned. On June 12, Lebanese President Michel Aoun issued a strong warning claiming the vessel entered “the disputed maritime area with Israel” and threatened that, in Beirut’s view, “any action or activity in the disputed area represents a provocation and an aggressive action.” It is important to point out that President Aoun still has not formally filed a decree demanding an amendment or lay claim to the Karish field. However, this has not stopped Hezbollah to take advantage of the situation and position itself as the defender of Lebanon and its interests.

The lack of an outright election’s winner and Lebanon’s rigid power-sharing political structure means that the chance of significant change to the status quo is almost impossible. ship should swiftly withdraw, and it should be fully responsible for any losses, be they material or human (…) The Resistance surely has the financial, military, and security capabilities to prevent the enemy from extracting oil and gas from the Karish field.” A careful reading of Nasrallah’s speech shows that he sees the Karish field as part of Lebanon’s EEZ. Greece, in response, warned Lebanon against any harm coming to Greek citizens. Ruth Wasserman Lande, who worked as an adviser to the late President Shimon Peres adds “Israel calls on Lebanon to return to negotiations. The economic and energy situation in Lebanon is very difficult. The residents enjoy only a few hours of electricity a day, and negotiations can offer them creative solutions. Israel has always been willing to negotiate with Lebanon but with a clear demand to protect its security. Beyond that, Israel has nothing against the Lebanese people - on the contrary! And yet Hezbollah, acting on behalf of Iran, and against the good of the people in Lebanon, who are suffering greatly prevents any positive development in that direction”.

Going back a decade ago, to the first marathon of negotiations, we can see that Wasserman Lande’s words that “Israel has always been willing to negotiate On June 9, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah Hassan with Lebanon” are evident. Back then, Avigdor Nasrallah warned Israel that Karish field is a “red Liberman was serving as Foreign Minister, Liberman line”. In a televised speech, he said “Everything is on who is well known for his ultra-nationalistic stand, he the table for the resistance (…) we do not want a war, actually saw an opportunity in reaching a deal with but we do not fear one. Israel must halt its activities in the Lebanese government. At the time this was seen the Karish field and swiftly and immediately withdraw as a win-win situation both in terms of stability and of potential investments. its ship from there.” He continued that “the company that owns the drilling

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Israel has shown a willingness to negotiate and many


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in Lebanon understand the need for a compromise to take Lebanon out from its colossal miserable economic situation, where the majority of its people are struggling to make ends meet. But the question is, what Hezbollah wants and will decide.

LEBANON STILL IN THE GRIP OF HEZBOLLAH Despite Hezbollah and its allies losing their parliamentary majority, they still have a firm grip on most of the levers of power in Lebanon. The lack of an outright election’s winner and Lebanon’s rigid power-sharing political structure means that the chance of significant change to the status quo is

During talks in late 2020, the US brought Lebanese and Israeli officials to Nakoura, a city in southern Lebanon near Rosh Hanikra in Israel, for indirect negotiations over the maritime border.

almost impossible. Ten years ago US energy envoy Amos Hochstein sat with Israeli and Lebanese officials trying to work out a meet-me-halfway solution. A decade later, amid the ever-deteriorating state of the Lebanese economy, precisely June 2022, Hochstein is back again to Beirut, trying to bring both Israel and Lebanon to negotiate a compromise. Hezbollah took credit for Hochstein’s arrival to Beirut, claiming The State Department is worried and rightly have taken Hezbollah’s threats of using force to stop the Israelis from developing the Karish field seriously. Hence why Hochstein was sent to Beirut. The Lebanese election demonstrated that Lebanon’s dire economic situation is the main focus of the voters. But with Hezbollah still in charge of Lebanon one can with certainty predict that the US-Hochstein mediation will fail even if Israel offer a generous compromise. An attentive reading of Nasrallah’s words “as long as the Resistance remains in Lebanon, there is no chance that ‘Israel’ will ever come close to creating a reality in which they can exploit the Karish field, and soon Tel Aviv will realize that it has to give up its petty game”.

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In this file photo taken on June 2022 ,3 and obtained from Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority, shows a tugboat pulling an Energean Floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) ship along Egypt’s Suez Canal. - Lebanon should block Israel from extracting gas from a disputed offshore field, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on June 9, warning a hydrocarbon exploration company hired by Israel against proceeding with its activities. (Photo by various sources / AFP)


Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun attends the cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 2020 ,22. (Reuters)

Nasrallah’s recent speeches indicate several points: he is aware that the Lebanese government desperately needs to drill gas to save the country from total financial ruin. Secondly, his assertiveness that ‘we in Hezbollah’ will use force if the negotiations fail, is a message to the Lebanese government as well as to Israel that ‘we in Hezbollah’ are still in charge’. Finally, crowning Karish Field as Lebanese is giving Israel no option of reaching a workable compromise. Hezbollah’s continued aggressive stand will only harm Lebanon and will lead to further economic

“The Shark gas rig which will be connected in the coming months is not part of the negotiations with Lebanon. It has never been part of the controversy and never will be.” collapse. His aggressive rhetoric and actions stopped potential investors from investing in Lebanon’s gas fields and other sectors. His hatred towards Israel has resulted in millions of Lebanese struggling to live a dignified life. Hezbollah’s backer, Iran will play the biggest role in which direction Amos Hochstein’s mediation will go. “The Iranian threat is common to all countries that wish to live in peace and stability in the region. Peace between Israel and other countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and with the help of God in the future - Saudi Arabia - is so important (…) For the future of our children, we must continue to strive for peace” says Ruth Wasserman Lande. This begs the final question, will Lebanon be free to decide the future of its children…

This image grab taken from Hezbollah›s al-Manar TV on June 9, 2022, shows Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah delivering a televised speech from an undisclosed location. / AFP

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pinion

Negotiations with the Russian Bear But is it time for the Ukrainian war to stop? All of the tools of deterrence have been used and countries have been exhausted from the economic sanctions to the massive armament of the Ukrainian army, in addition to the provision of all kinds of ammunition and even intelligence information to the media campaign on all traditional and social means.

By Elie Fawaz

However, the Russian army is still advancing and nibbling the Ukrainian cities one after the other. Russia is moving slowly perhaps, but it is advancing amid European astonishment, which accuses President Putin of intending to starve the world by occupying the main ports for the export of grain. It is really a dilemma that the world and the Europeans in particular do not know how to deal with. Sanctions on Russian gas or oil and the Europeans’ refraining from buying them will open other consumer markets such as China.

Russian oil exports to China recorded an increase of 55% compared to last year, while Europeans are still suffering in the matter of searching for alternatives to it

results of that war. If the absolute support that Ukrainian President Zelensky receives does not stop the progress of the Russian forces and does not hinder their plans and their intention to take full control of the southern part of Ukraine and completely prevent it from penetrating the sea, the fear is for Odessa and then Moldova to share a fate similar to any cities occupied by the Russian army. It is clear that this war has great and tragic repercussions, the first of which is the people who sacrifice their lives. The second is the cities that are subjected to systematic destruction, but this war also has repercussions on global food security since a large proportion of the grain passes through the ports in the warzone.

To this, Russia added the increase in inflation rates that hit the world and Europe, especially in what affects the purchasing power of its citizens, who In this regard, Russian oil exports to China re- began to feel the loss of some foodstuffs from store corded an increase of 55% compared to last year, shelves, as well as the increase in their prices due while Europeans are still suffering in the matter of to the increase in fuel prices. All this happens after the world learned about the crisis that coronavirus searching for alternatives to it. left on its economies. In Germany, for example, the government will resort to using coal, especially in the electricity sec- All analysts say that the war will be prolonged and tor, in order to reduce dependence on Russian gas. that the Russian bear will drown in the Ukrainian As for the major companies that were forced to crisis, as it sank before in the Afghan quagmire. close their businesses in Moscow, they are talking about billions of dollars in losses as a result of this But is this comparison or approximation permissible? It is true that most of the Ukrainians are decision. aligned behind their leadership, but there are also Without a doubt, Western sanctions on Moscow regions and peoples in this country that support will have a fundamental and significant impact Russia, so the Russian soldier does not feel that he on the Russian interior, but its repercussions will is in danger or in a hostile environment, for examnot pose any danger to this regime or its plans, as ple in the Donbass. Then the most important and it will suppress by force and violence any protest imminent question: Can the world bear the consemovement that will support the West, which will quences of this war, even if Europe finds alternasuffer for a relatively long period of time from the tives to gas and oil?

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Confronting High Costs of Marriage in Egypt Al-Azhar Launches Initiative to Facilitate Marriage By Salwa Samir The Islamic Research Academy of Al-Azhar has recently launched an initiative to confront the high costs of marriage in Egypt.

The initiative called “Letaskono Elaiha”, taken from a verse in Islam’s Holy book means, “You may find tranquillity in them”. As when God ordered people to get married and form

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families, he said the marriage must be a relationship based on affection and mercy, not on furniture and appliances. The initiative seeks to achieve a set of goals that eliminate the bad habits practiced in conducting weddings through extravagant costs, in the hope of facilitating matters related to it, as well as confronting the exaggeration of its costs, especially in such economic conditions that the world suffers from today. The initiative has three phases. The first is implemented for the engagement, by seeking to achieve a set of matters, the most important of which is limiting the engagement ceremony to be attended only by close relatives on the two sides in addition to reducing exchanged gifts to save money. The engagement should be short in period during which the would-be couple agree on all expenses and costs of marriage.

A bride and groom (C) are showered with money as they dance during a wedding in the Egyptian Nile Delta province of Monufia. (AFP)

The second stage of the initiative is the preparation for marriage, through which it calls for obtaining an intensive course for the spouses-to-be in understanding family dynamics, limiting the writing of the actual movables in which the marital home is established, without exaggeration, choosing the home through the couple only not their parents, according to their ability and without exaggeration. The couple should agree that the shabka, a set of gold accessories a groom usually gives his bride before they marry, should be based on value and not by grams, the postponement in purchasing less useful furniture, limiting the necessary appliances to the house and eliminating unnecessary electrical appliances that result in more costs in the monthly bills. The third stage emphasizes holding wedding ceremonies as simply as possible, and not being bound by cumbersome appearances and exaggeration. It also calls for cancelling photo sessions and traveling for the honeymoon to save money. The initiative will be addressed and followed

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The initiative seeks to achieve a set of goals that eliminate the bad habits practiced in conducting weddings through extravagant costs. up by male and female preachers of Al-Azhar in all governorates of Egypt. Amna Nosseir, a professor of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University, told Majalla that the initiative is great and comes from the core of religion. “Most of the problems faced by young people who are about to get married are related to exaggerating the terms of marriage and abiding by the outdated customs and traditions adopted by families,” she said. “This initiative will help encourage marriage among more young couples and in a quicker way (since it strikes at) exaggeration in dowries (which) makes many young people refrain from the idea of marriage.” She believed that the initiative would achieve great success, especially in the villages and rural areas in Egypt. Nosseir explained that the high costs of marriage had caused an increase in the number of women in debt in the countryside, since every mother or father buys all the marriage requirements that his daughter or son needs through debt, and if they fail to pay, they are imprisoned. “Grooms and brides must start their life together from the zero. There is no obligation that they must have a fully-equipped home with all appliances. But together, and by time, they can add appliances and whatever they need step by step,” Nosseir said.


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“I hope that this initiative will contribute to changing wrong perceptions in society regarding marriage. By Al-Azhar’s following up, the initiative will spread among people and achieve its goals, God willing.” Samia Khedr, professor of sociology at Ain Shams University, hailed the Al-Azhar initiative. She believes that the Al Azhar is not sufficient to tackle such a huge issue, however. “Al Azhar has its role and the school, the uni-

The engagement should be short in period during which the would-be couple agree on all expenses and costs of marriage.

versity, the family and media have their roles too in tackling this problem. Al Azhar alone will not succeed,” Khedr told Majalla. “This generation is different from previous ones. The mother now has no time to raise her children. She is busy at her work and spends little time with her kids. So when her kids grow up, how will they see the right marriage concepts and know its true message?” she wondered. Khedr added that young people nowadays lack patience in solving their problems. “Some people abstain from marriage for fear of getting divorced after a short period of marriage,” she said about many cases she already knows. Khedr urged the media to play a role in raising people’s awareness about this issue starting from how they can select the suitable partner, not because of their richness, but because of

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Egyptian women attend a wedding in the Egyptian Nile Delta province of Monufia. (AFP)


A couple pose for their wedding video in the Egyptian capital Cairo [AFP/Getty]

good morals. “Unfortunately, young people have no role models. Social media displays many useless topics which become trends such as a divorce between an actress and billionaire and the millions she earned after getting divorced. People talk about money, nothing else. Young women compare their lives with what they see in the media. So how can they react just to this initiative?” She gave an example of an actor posting on his social media platforms his many cars to the audience. “What is the message the audience gets when they see such a trivial post? The actor unintentionally causes a problem to those who want to imitate him and dream to live the life he has,” Khedr said. A number of initiatives have been launched recently by society to facilitate marriage and to curb spinsterhood. But they are not spread-

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Some people abstain from marriage for fear of getting divorced after a short period of marriage. ing enough in a country whose inhabitants exceed 103 million people. According to the 2021 report by the stateowned Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, Egypt records a case of divorce every two minutes and two marriages per minute. “The whole of society should make concerted efforts to solve this problem. Al Azhar did its role through this initiative. We wait for the media and other concerned bodies to play their role too.”


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Iran’s Bank Melli Robbery: Heist or Staged Show? By Mahdi Akabaei

showed up at the scene.

Iranian state television reported that “thieves cut into the vault of a branch of Bank Melli (Persian for National Bank) from a neighboring building in Tehran.” As a result, hundreds of Iranians lost their savings.

The branch did not have a security guard, and the bank found out about the theft after four days. Hassan Mounesan, Member of the Board of Directors of Bank Melli, said on June 10 that it took the thieves about 14 hours to take away the money.

As the burglars entered the bank, they had 14 hours to easily dismantle CCTVs and take their memory cards. They made a lot of noise using hand-milling machines to cut the safe boxes and steal people’s belongings. Bank alarms sounded, and while the security forces received several calls, not even one police officer

Mounesan acknowledged that this branch boasts “seven levels of security and an automated alarm system.” However, he dodged the question on why burglars easily entered the bank. For long, Iran’s ruling theocracy justified its cruelty by

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bragging about “bringing security to the country.” Killing innocent protesters on the streets, arresting critics of the regime officials, and organized attacks against women are all deemed “security measures” by the regime. While it takes several minutes for state security forces to arrive at the scene of a protest and open fire on unarmed civilians, how did they fail to arrest a gang of bandits over the course of 14 hours? There are many speculations about the complicity of the regime officials in this heist. Given the regime’s institutionalized corruption and history of plundering people’s wealth, the possibility is highly probable. In 2018, thousands of Iranians lost the savings they had entrusted to government-backed credit institutions such as Caspian Bank and Thamen-Ol-Ameh. These institutions claimed that they would return people’s money with a 25% interest rate, and tricked people into trusting them.

Photo shows police and bank officials inspecting the scene of a robbery hat affected safe deposit boxes at one of main branches of Iran’s Bank Melli on June 7, 2022 in .Tehran

These institutions gradually stopped allowing cash withdrawals, then stopped paying interest, and finally shut their doors for good, ruining the lives of thousands of people across the country. These institutions were linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. People held weeklong protests demanding their rights. The demonstrations and the slogans of those who fell victim to this systemic scam were later attributed to Iran’s first major uprising in 2018, which rattled the regime’s foundations. Following the Monday heist, defrauded people gathered at Bank Melli’s main branch and called for their rights. At first, regime officials tried to disperse the crowd, saying that since the safe boxes were not insured, they were not responsible for retributing people’s losses. These responses allowed people to express their hatred toward Iran’s ruling theocracy. Fearing people’s backlash and another series of protests in Iran’s current volatile society, the regime promised that it would prosecute the thieves. On June 9, finally, the state police announced it had ar-

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There are many speculations about the complicity of the regime officials in this heist. Given the regime’s institutionalized corruption and history of plundering people’s wealth, the possibility is highly probable. rested all robbers and confiscated the fortunes. Iran’s state media and the police made a great deal of fanfare about arresting the thieves, bragging about a joint operation with the Interpol to arrest several thieves who managed to escape Iran. People reacted to this bonanza on social media, questioning the failure of the regime’s General Command of the Law Enforcement (FRAJA) to catch the robbers in the act, while it claims to be so powerful. This forced Hossein Ashtari, Tehran’s Police Chief, to ridiculously claim they had already arrested the thieves a couple of days before making it public. Ashtari’s remarks about recovering people’s belongings hinted at the regime’s role in Monday’s burglary. He noted that they managed to recover the majority of people’s belongings and money. He said on June 9 in an interview with state TV that “it was now up to them to determine how much they had lost and tell us.” According to the regime’s criminal code, holding more than 10,000-euro worth of securities equals currency smuggling, thus punishable under the regime’s laws. In other words, people who had their life savings in the bank can now only get back 10,000 euros of their belongings, while the regime can keep the rest. Besides, the regime claimed it had arrested all criminals. So why have they restored only 90% of people’s belongings? Where is the rest? Hoping the regime’s FRAJA would retain people’s


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funds is like expecting an arsonist to put out the arson! FRAJA, formerly known as NAJA, is a corrupted institution. In 2015, amid the regime’s infightings, reports emerged that NAJA and its then-commander Ahmadi Moghaddam, have embezzled billions of dollars. According to the Iranian Resistance’s exclusive report in 2020, NAJA “today is one of the largest holding companies in Iran.” According to this report, “In 2014, state-run media estimated the assets of this foundation to be over USD3.2 billion. The enterprises of this foundation include Ghavamin Bank, Mehregan Investment Holding, NAJA

The security claims that the regime makes are evident in the recent clashes between citizens affected by the robbery of Bank Melli Tehran branch and Khamenei’s mercenaries and .the security forces

Hope Insurance Fund, and NAJA Science, Education, and Recreation Institute, among other holdings. Tehran’s crisis-riddled regime needs more money to fund its terrorism and warmongering policies. Therefore, whether covertly or overtly, it plunders people’s wealth. From devouring oil rigs, monopolizing entire industries, selling soil and trees, or the latest bank robbery that raises so many red flags are all part of the regime’s plan to use every penny it finds to elongate its lifeline. However, despite all the wealth the mullahs have looted and plundered from the Iranian people, can they afford to buy more time? With a regime that breathes public security every day, this blatant theft in broad daylight is just another example. In fact, the security claims that the regime makes are evident in the recent clashes between citizens affected by the robbery of Bank Melli Tehran branch and Khamenei’s mercenaries and the security forces. Angry demonstrators screamed in the face of the latter, “You dishonorable.” The reason behind the slogan is that their belonging and money were stolen by the regime in broad daylight, and from the deposit box of the regime’s Bank Melli. When

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Robbers had taken advantage of June 5 public holiday to break into a Tehran bank. (TASNIM )NEWS / AFP


The entrance to the Bank .Melli Iran in Tehran

the affected citizens protested, the government institutions responded that the money and funds were unsecured, and that they were not responsible for the theft. Government officials do not provide explanation of how when a young protester demonstrates against the regime in the streets, security forces arrive immediately, and how a porter working on the border to provide for his is shot dead. However, when a government bank is robbed, the security forces are nowhere to be seen. What is the reason behind these double standards and contradiction? In Iran that ruled by the mullahs, prices rise every day, from housing to electricity, to services, and now basic goods and bread, being the last remnants on every day’s table. Exorbitant taxes and astronomical utility bills are other tools to drain people’s pockets. Along the inflated prices, the regime’s robbery methods have been increasingly exposed to the extent that state media have been running headlines like, “Government fumble in people’s pockets” (ISNA - January 2022-). These thefts also stem from the nature of this regime, which comprises different mafia gangs specialized in looting and theft to keep it alive. Therefore, the security that Khamenei talks about as

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Iran’s state media and the police made a great deal of fanfare about arresting the thieves, bragging about a joint operation with the Interpol to arrest several thieves who managed to escape Iran. necessary is to protect the mafia apparatus itself in the face of the great hatred that the Iranian people have for it and its sinister regime. This is the people whose accumulated anger has grown into a daily nightmare for Khamenei and his regime. The manifestations of the revolution are slowly erupting every day these days, leading towards mobilization for an uprising and the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime and the resistance units of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran. The consequences will be more evident in the near future. *Member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)


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pinion

For The Love of Our Children

By Luisa Markides

Mothers. Women with dreams, desires, and needs. For the love of their children. Mothers. Women who decided to sacrifice their careers for their children. For the growth of their children. Mothers. Women who exchange what fulfilled their lives prior to having children, for raising them and giving up a part of what defined them previously. All for the happiness of their children. Motherhood. A privilege for many, a life achievement. The happiness in seeing life transmitted in a new generation, seeing them growing into small personalities and being able to carry them in your arms for a part of their life journey. Their small hands in yours, while conveying your values and lessons that life might well face them with. Walking beside them, introducing them to the world they are born into, while trying their best, day by day. However, there is a small silver line, between fulfilling and some perhaps not just pure joyful emotions. The frequent feeling of failing when daily life tasks or circumstances seem to be overwhelming.

creature in your arms, despite feeling you are holding your everything right there in your arms…. you might feel lonely. Those uncountable, endless lonely and dark sleepless nights. Oh, the tears. The exhaustion. The feeling of failure. Those mothers who don’t dare to speak about their thoughts and fears, as they should simply be mothers and grateful for being so. Still a taboo. However, the loneliness some women face when becoming mothers can have a huge impact on them. They feel isolated after their child is born. It can also be perceived as daunting, having suddenly to care for a new tiny helpless human being. This can exacerbate those feeling of isolation. Especially the case for Stay-At-Home mothers. 90% of mothers are experiencing some sort of loneliness, particularly during the first year.

From the moment a woman decides to bring a new life into this world, changes occur. They will never be the same again. The responsibility and the unconditional love for a new creature will change who they are as personaliMotherhood comes with so many dif- ties. The word ‘love’ becomes a new ferent shades. From pure gratitude of definition. Whatever the image or unhaving the chance to be a mother, to derstanding of motherhood they would sadness and frustration when you feel have had prior of becoming a parent you can not keep up with what is ex- might change drastically. They might pected from you. Loneliness. The feel- look back on to their own childhood, ing of guilt, when you hold your tiny to their own wounds they have carried

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with them since their youth. There might be a reconciliation with their own mother as suddenly they can appreciate the struggle their own mother must have endured while raising them.

memories together all the way along. Soon those memories will fulfil your past.

However, sometimes the decision of motherhood can be out of someone’s control. Circumstances or financial reasons might force Everything is out of love. It’s such a short someone to juggle a full or part-time job and time in a mother’s life that the children are motherhood. A big burden on a family. so desperately dependent on them, that they require constant attention. What a privilege The realization that each mother mostly to be able to be there, by teaching them your always simply tries their best in their abillearnt life lessons. Holding your child’s ity, to bring up what is their most precious hand tight, cherishing those early years that achievement in life. And when we fail, it is will be soon forgotten and replaced by an simply because we did not know how to do independent growing up person. Collecting otherwise, how to do it better.

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A Weekly Political News Magazine

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Issue 1910- June- 24/06/2022

Ursula von der Leyen: The First Woman to Lead the EU www.majalla.com



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El Gouna Film Festival’s 6th Edition Has Been Postponed A Strange and Brief History of Arab Festivals By Mohammed Rouda The announcement of the postponement of the 2022 El Gouna Film Festival (GFF), which was scheduled to take place from October 13 to 22, came as a surprise to many who had followed the Egyptian festival’s activities in its previous five sessions and enjoyed the professionalism of its management and the diversity of its films. The postponement of this year’s session was accompanied by a justification that stated: “the postponement stems from the keenness and belief of the El Gouna Film Festival management to enhance the vital role that the festival plays at the technical and tourism levels locally and globally, taking into account the current global challenges that may impede the global and regional characterization that the festival management seeks to achieve and confirm.” BEHIND THE SCENES The postponement is clearly revealed in the announcement. Aside from that, things are murky. Some of these issues do not appear to be related to the decision to postpone, but they may be the start of other changes to the festival’s administration that neces-

sitated cancelling the current session in preparation for a later session with a new staff. What pushes in this direction is that during the previous session, everything appeared normal, except that the administration witnessed meetings in which, according to what was reported, issues concerning the

Intishal Al Timimi

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future of some festival workers were discussed. According to reports, the festival’s general manager, Intishal Al Timimi, the best festival expert in this part of the world, informed the festival’s chairman, Naguib Sawiris, that someone is performing his administrative duties and that he is unable to deal with the situation. Following that, director Amir Ramses resigned as a response, confirming that the festival administration supported Al Timimi in his complaint. This comes after a disagreement between Al Timimi and Ramses over film selection and who has the final say in this administration. Naguib Sawiris, the festival’s president, gave Al Timimi a well-deserved defense. As for Amir Ramses, he joined the Cairo Festival after a few months, as its artistic director under the direction of producer and actor Hussein Fahmy. Other sources, however, claim that another reason for the postponement is that the financial situation of Naguib Sawiris’ tourism projects did not go as planned, and that his tourism institution, which he co-directs


with his brother Samih Sawiris, is suffering from a financial crisis, not in the grave sense of the word, but specifically the part governing the festival and other cultural activities. As stated in the festival, tourism revenues have decreased due to security and economic developments, albeit on a sideways basis. The festival’s fourth and fifth editions were held despite the situation caused by the Corona pandemic in the previous two years. And the current conflict in Ukraine has had no effect on any celebration or film festival, with the exception of those held in Ukraine itself. In addition to celebrations and cinematic demonstrations in Kyiv, there are two film festivals: one for narrative cinema (“Kyiv International Film Festival”) and one for documentary cinema (“Kyiv Contact”). There are five other annual events and festivals (including the “Ukrainian Film Academy Awards” and the “Film Critics Awards”), some of which are already held outside of Kyiv. DIFFERENT PATHS The El Gouna Festival (GFF) was founded (in 2017) with the goal of stimulating tourism in the Hurghada region in general and the city of El Gouna, which is owned by the Sawiris companies. At the time, the company decided to host a large film festival in order to introduce the city on the Red Sea to the media and attract tourists to the hotels and villas that comprise a complete tourist resort. The concept was not absurd or unworkable, and the choice of Al-Tamimi to manage the festival (who previously ran the Abu Dhabi Film Festival) was spot on. What happened is that his ambition does not appear to have been realized on a global scale. In other words, the festival was successful in establishing its regional presence (and received global coverage by magazines interested in “business” film affairs), and its role in the Arab region became more important (especially after the “Dubai Film Festival” ended in 2018), but its audience was made up of invitees, Arabs, and foreigners and a

Naguib Sawiris, businessman

sizable proportion of Egyptian artists. The Cannes Festival served as a model for the festival’s founders, as it brought new tourists to the coastal city in the spring of each year. This, of course, is in addition to the twenty-two events and small festivals that take place throughout the year, which have helped to make the city a popular tourist destination. Could there be other, unstated reasons, such as the establishment of the “Red Sea Festival” in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the vast opportunities available with large budgets to make it one of the most important international festivals? Is there competition between the two festivals in this context, especially since the Saudi festival’s support funds for film projects are more appealing to Arab and non-Arab directors than co-production opportunities? Competition is possible, even necessary, but the likelihood is low, especially since the announcement refers to cancelling a tournament rather than a festival. What allows us to discuss this topic is the current state of Arab festivals, which requires a comprehensive approach. Creating a film festival in an ambitious

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Arab country has piqued the interest of many throughout history. We will not delve into history here (except to the extent necessary and appropriate), but it is worth noting that Cairo (where the first attempt at a film festival was made in 1936), Damascus, Beirut, and Tunis were the first Arab capitals to respond to this ambition. Both Damascus and Beirut have stopped, then returned, then stopped, but the Carthage Film Festival, which began in the Tunisian capital in 1966, is still going on. The Carthage Film Festival was not an international festival, but rather a collection of Arab and African cinema, the only one speaking of them at the time. This trend has continued to the present day, with it transitioning from a once-every-two-year event to an important annual event on the scale of the continent and Arab cinema, but less so in terms of its positioning as a global event. It was followed by the Cairo Film Festival in 1976 as an annual international event that was postponed several times but has since continued, completing 43 courses with various administrations and levels over more than four decades. The forty-fourth session is set to take place


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Dubai International Film Festival 2014: The last stop.

from November 12 to November 22 under the direction of Hussain Fahmi, who ran the festival for three years in the 1990s before vowing not to repeat it. I asked him five years ago, when the Egyptian Ministry of Culture was looking for a replacement for his resigned director, the critic Magda Wassef, if he was interested in nominating himself to return to the driving seat, and he quickly replied, “Of course it is not possible. That is not something I want”. However, the reality of the situation has changed, and Hussein Fahmy has become the first person to preside over the Cairo Festival twice in its history. Following the 43rd session last year, filmmaker Mohamed Hefzy apologized for remaining in his position. What happened after the festival raised questions about his relationships with competing cinematic bodies (the Red Sea Festival was men-

tioned in some criticisms), as well as its contribution to the production of two films that caused controversy, namely “Friends and no dearer” and “Amira” Hardliners accused the first of encouraging homosexuality, while the second was criticized as a “distortion of the spirit of the Palestinian cause.” From the second half of the 1980s to the mid-1990s, the most successful periods of the Egyptian festival were those under the direction of writer Saad El-Din Wahba. Subsequent attempts with multiple administrations resulted in numerous landing stations. TRACKS Of course, small festivals in the Arab world have collapsed, including those held in Morocco, Egypt, Oman, and Lebanon, and many of them, such as Tetouan in Morocco and Alexandria in Egypt, remain, each in its own specialty or chosen course. Even

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the Beirut Film Festival returned for a short time before departing again. But the most significant event in the last two decades was the 2004 launch of the Dubai Film Festival, which continued until 2018 at a successful pace and under professional administration, making it one of the best festivals in the Arab world at the time, as well as one of the best organized and embodiments of the global identity that many different festivals wear here and around the world. Following that, there was the Marrakech Festival, which started strong but then declined, the Doha Festival, which started promising but was divided into two smaller festivals, and the Abu Dhabi Festival, which started with some pitfalls in 2009 but overcame them years later from its launch until its abrupt end in 2014 – a string of film festivals that opened doors in the Arab world with varying degrees of


Amir Ramsees - Director and Artistic Director

success. During that time, and between four international festivals held in the Arab East and the West (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Marrakesh), Arab cinema appeared to be improving. The large prizes entice Arab filmmakers to present the best of their talents and methods, funds are available, and guests come from all over the world. After the Abu Dhabi Festival ceased operations, as did the Marrakech Festival twice in recent years, and Doha was reduced to two minor festivals, only the Dubai Festival remained active until a decision was made to replace its administration and postpone its 2018 session until next year. This is similar to what the El Gouna Festival (GFF) is experiencing right now. The highest administrative decision in Dubai stipulates that the festival will be absent for a year before returning to continue its

Hussain Fahmi - President of the Cairo Festival Hussein Fahmy

role in supporting Arab cinema and putting Dubai on the international map. But absence turned into an eternal act after that. Mr. Abdul Hameed Gomaa presided over the Dubai Festival with exceptional knowledge, and its owner Masoud Amrallah was credited with encouraging Emirati cinema to attend through the “Films from the Emirates” festival, which was held in Abu Dhabi years before the launch of its international festival. What appears to have occurred is that there were two players’ opinions regarding the Dubai Festival, one supporting it and wishing it continued, especially since it had proven its usefulness, and the other opposing it for unknown reasons. Is this what the El Gouna Festival will be like? Is the postponement announcement a prelude to blocking? Nobody knows for sure, but the question is there.

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It gives one a sense of fulfilment that the “Red Sea Festival” in Saudi Arabia was born successfully last year and is poised to continue in recognition of the Arab world’s need for an event of such magnitude and significance. It also brings great joy to know that the Cairo and Carthage festivals are still important pillars in this field, playing an artistic and cultural role. And if El Gouna returns to work after overcoming whatever ordeal it is facing, that will be a fantastic accomplishment. * Mohammed Rouda is Asia World Film Festival consultant, programmer, and script writer. He wrote books on cinema. He’s also a member of: Fipresci (International Federation of Film Critics), London Film Circle MPAA (the media section, Hollywood), and Hollywood Foreign Press Association.


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NEW MOVIES

By Mohammed Rouda

A weekly review of screenings at movie theatres around the world LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES ★★★★

◆ Genre: Documentary / Historical [US] ◆ Tribeca Festival Shows

Our relationship with Native Americans is not the same as theirs with the United States. No matter how much we understand - and indeed support - their motivations for resisting the US army over various time periods, the heavy loss of their various nations (the book “500 Nation” published years ago lists the names of the majority of them) is still present today. The Lakota are one of those nations that have steadfastly defended their homeland (the states of Dakota and North Dakota, and including the five major Lakota, Santee, Yankton, Yanktonai, and Sioux) for decades, with agreements with US government forces backtracked “before the ink on their signature ran dry,” he says. Jesse Short Bull, director, with his voice and documentation. But the film is more than just a story about a just cause that was lost, or a tragedy about a people who couldn’t stand up to someone stronger than them. It’s a poetic, transparent mash-up of scenes from interviews, documentaries, and Hollywood productions. No matter how you look at it, this is a captivating film. ◆ Final Judgment: An important movie for any researcher.

Isaac) to find her mother, who has also abandoned her. A road movie that begins with “No, I will not go with you” and progresses through the contradictory attitudes of father and daughter to the strong family relationship that the film suggests. The film will be shown soon on “Amazon” screens. ◆ Final Judgment: Entertainment that satisfies certain tastes.

LOVING HIGHSMIITH ★★★

◆ Genre: Documentary [Germany] ◆ Tribeca Festival Shows

DON’T MAKE ME GO ★★

◆ Genre: Social Drama [US] ◆ Tribeca Festival Shows A well-rounded independent film, it would have been better if its director Hanna Marks had overcome her desire to make a film that bore the burden of tradition and clichés throughout its run. John Cho, an Asian actor, learns that his years of life are coming to an end due to cancer. He embarks on a journey with his estranged daughter (performed by Mia

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Another film that the critic saw at the Tribeca Film Festival last week as an important cinematic study as science and information on the famous American novelist Patricia Highsmith, who developed novels that were turned into exciting detective films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers 24/06/22


on a Train” in 1951, and “The Talented Mr. Riply,” which was directed by Frenchman René Clement under the title Purple Moon in 1960, before being adapted into a film by Britain’s Anthony Minghella in 1999. This documentary examines some of the author’s literary tendencies and reads from her letters and memoirs, but it also focuses - under the direction of film director Eva Vitija - on the writer’s private life as a homosexual, and The Price of Salt is her second novel about such an affair. (The Cost of Salt) Claire Morgan, I wrote it under a pen name. ◆ Final Judgment: Researchers will undoubtedly interest.

VAASHI ★

◆ Genre: Courts Drama ◆ Gulf Shows. positively and ends disastrously. Director Sheric Bessio takes his subject seriously and gives the viewer opportunities to reflect on what is going on rather than jumping in with unexpected situations. This alone is enough to set the film apart from the competition. ◆ Final Judgment: For fans of this genre without hesitation.

HUSTLE ★★

◆ Genre: Drama [US] ◆ Netflix Shows

The debut film of new director Vishnu Raghav does not hold out much hope for the future. True, it differs from the regular entertainment films that come from the Indian subcontinent to occupy the screens of Gulf theatres, but the difference is neither technical nor complete. A story about two lawyers who share one office and a love story that will soon end in marriage. There is suddenly a sexual assault case in which they will plead with the victim and he will plead with the accused. Of course, no one objected to their pleading in this manner, despite the fact that everyone is aware of the two lawyers’ relationship. However, it is a story that must derive some kind of “strangeness” and finds a suitable fit in this tale, with its rickety output. ◆ Final Judgment: A cup of tea with a piece of gateau in a quiet café is better.

PROJECT GEMINI ★★★

◆ Genre: Science Fiction [Russia/ Cyprus] ◆ Gulf Shows. A Russian film in the Hollywood style (directed by Serik Beyseu). But don’t let that discourage you. It’s one of the best science fiction films I’ve seen in at least six months. The story of the Earth’s demise due to environmental pollution and rising carbon dioxide levels (some of which I recall reading in high school) and the men and women of Gemini’s search for a new planet to transport humans to. When the craft lands on the wrong planet, the journey begins

After a brief absence, Adam Sandler returns to the (younger) screen in a dramatic role with a comedic accent. He is a member of a professional soccer team who discovers a talented but non-American player and attempts to persuade the team’s management to allow the player to participate. The reluctance to confront the insistence begins here, and the film leads us to the point where the hero of the film is correct and the sports hero fulfils his promise. Jeremiah Zager’s easy directing does his best to avoid clichés, but the anecdote itself is riddled with them. At the very least, we have an acceptable Sandler performance that we have never seen before. ◆ Final Judgment: Watching it is not necessary.

Ratings: ★ Weak or average | ★★: Mediocre with merits| ★★★: Good | ★★★★: Excellent | ★★★★★: A masterpiece 53

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A still from the Saudi film “Rupture”. Credit: Special to Majalla

Bringing Arab Cinema to World Theatres

Saudi Award-Winning Director Prepares Film on Acceptance of Other Majalla staff Saudi award-winning director Hamzah Jamjoom is preparing a film about love, co-existence and acceptance of the other as part of Saudi Arabia’s all-out efforts to globalise Arab cinema and to help create a boom in all aspects of the film industry after it removed its -35year-old ban on cinema in 2017. Hamzah told Majalla that the film is aimed at showing the correct image of Arabs to the world away from entrenched stereotypes about terrorism and violence. The movie, whose name is yet to be decided, tells the story of a father who tells his son to look for true love in its wider perception whether it is love for the homeland or for patents or for partners. The son, who believes that he can find love on the internet, is urged by his father to look for it through real life experiences and through interaction with others. The film is a Saudi-US-Tunisian-funded production. Tunisian businessman and former French presidential candidate Mohamed Ayachi Ajroudi is among the contributors.

The film director had previous experience in the Saudi film industry by directing the Saudi award-winning film Rupture or “Tamazok” in Arabic which shined light on the strengths of Arab women and their ability to overcome challenges. The production of the films comes amid a drive by the Saudi government to put women empowerment at the heart of its Vision 2030 reform program. Directed by Jamjoom and written by Alberto Lopez, Rupture tells the story of a Saudi couple who travel to London for fertility treatment. When in London, they find their lives upturned by the concierge of their serviced apartment block. The concierge launched a campaign of psychological terror against the couple, but the wise Malak is surprisingly strong enough to confront adversaries. The film made its debut at the Red Sea International Film Festival on December 2021 ,6 as the only Saudi Arabian film in the competition. It won the audience award for the best Saudi feature. More than 138 films from 67 countries from different regions

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Crew of the Saudi film “Rupture” celebrating winning the Saudi best feature award at the Red Sea International Film Festival

Saudi award-winning film director Hamzah Jamjoom

of the world participated in the festival, which indicates the significant development of Saudi cinema in the past few years. “We were impressed by the film on several levels, how it inspires dread in the audience, the use and accumulation of little signs of daily life, the fantastic portrait of the predator, and the clever use of disorientation to frighten not only the protagonist, but us watching too,” Edouard Waintrop, director of the film festival, told Majalla. “The idea has always been to successfully deliver the inaugural edition and push the boundaries for Arab cinema; show the world that the region has changed over the past three years,” added Waintrop, according to Variety. The festival, Waintrop added, “appeals to a new generation of people between the ages of 19 and 40 who are educated and more progressive, and they are benefiting from the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to modernize the region”. Waintro cited in this regard “women’s right to drive, the

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“We were impressed by the film on several levels, how it inspires dread in the audience, the use and accumulation of little signs of daily life, the fantastic portrait of the predator.” opening of theaters and the upcoming launch of an arthouse cinema chain”. “We have the best Arab film selection we could have hoped for, with movies addressing contemporary issues like the role of women and male violence,” he said. “The big battle we fought during the selection process was to free ourselves from censorship and we succeeded.” This festival’s jury had among its members president of the Red Sea features competition, Academy Award-winning Italian director and writer Giuseppe Tornatore; Tunisian actor Hend Sabry; Palestinian-American director, writer, actor, and producer Cherien Dabis; Mexican festival director and founder of the Morelia International Film Festival Daniela Michel; and Saudi film director Abdulaziz Alshlahei. Tornatore said: “The nominees showcased an incredible range of talent across a diverse and fascinating breadth of themes. “This has been an extraordinary experience, we have been moved, provoked and inspired by these films and it has demonstrated the exceptional filmmaking talent and compelling stories from the Arab world, Africa and Asia. The quality of the nominated films made many of our decisions very difficult.”


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echnology

A Space Tech Company Stumbled on a New Way to Cut Emissions on Earth The New Process Eliminates Direct CO2 Emissions, Cuts Energy Use in Half By Adele Peters When he cofounded the startup Helios four years ago, Jonathan Geifman was focused on space travel, not climate change. But as his team worked on one challenge—how to produce oxygen on the moon—they stumbled on a new solution for one of the biggest climate polluters on the planet: the steel industry. Right now, steel factories emit around 3 billion tons of CO2

a year, or around three times as much as the entire airline industry. The emissions aren’t just from energy use, but from the process: The first step typically involves combining a form of coal with iron ore in a giant furnace, and as it burns, the chemical reaction makes CO2. While the industry is experimenting with alternatives, including using green hydrogen and carbon capture, they’re expensive and likely to grow slowly. Helios’ approach could cost less than the status quo.

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“If you actually want to incentivize the industry to reduce its emissions—and not to do it by 2050, but to do it in the coming 10 years—in our opinion, the only way to do it is by coming up with a solution that will reduce their opex, their production costs,” says Geifman. “We completely disregard carbon credits on purpose: We want to show that this process is more efficient at its core. We don’t want to rely on subsidies or taxes in order to make this technology work.” As the new process eliminates direct CO2 emissions, it also cuts energy use in half, helping steel producers save money. The Israel-based company discovered the new method while developing an approach to generate oxygen from regolith, the rocky covering on the moon. (One of the challenges for moon landings is the expense of transporting oxygen from Earth, for use both by astronauts and in rocket propellant.) On Earth, the simplest way to separate oxygen from iron oxide is to use carbon (and create pollution), but there’s little carbon on the moon. The team “needed to throw everything out and come up with a completely new concept,” Geifman says.

Credit: (TNS)

For proprietary reasons, the startup declined to describe the details of the chemical process that happens in its new reactor. But the basic approach is simple, and substitutes another material for carbon. As they began testing it to produce oxygen, they realized that they were also producing a lot of iron. “We got 10 times more than we’d calculated,” he says. “That was repeated time after time. We realized that we had an additional process that is going on inside the reactor beyond just our process. . . . I think we disassembled and reassembled the furnace 20 times to try and understand what was going on.” When they realized that it was an efficient way to make iron, they reached out to experts in the steel industry. “When we came up with this, we were sure that we were missing something,” he says. “I mean, no way we just came up with a novel method to produce iron ore and steel—these materials have been produced for nearly 3,000 years. The next logical step was to reach out to the industry and to get their feedback. And to our surprise, we realized that we actually came up with a completely novel approach to produce iron.” The process can happen inside a direct reduction iron (DRI) furnace, a type of equipment that many steelmakers already have. It eliminates direct emissions, and because it also uses half the energy of the typical process, it also significantly cuts emissions from fossil energy used in the equipment. If

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“We completely disregard carbon credits on purpose: We want to show that this process is more efficient at its core. We don’t want to rely on subsidies or taxes in order to make this technology work.” the equipment is converted to use clean energy, emissions can drop to zero. Although there are multiple approaches to help reduce emissions in the steel industry, the new technology has advantages. Recycling steel is also important, but because steel is used in buildings, bridges, and other long-term applications, it can’t all be recycled quickly; there just isn’t enough recycled steel to meet demand. Green hydrogen could also be helpful but is “still extremely expensive and cost prohibitive,” says Andrew Buchanan, circular economy group manager at the Materials Processing Institute, a nonprofit that researches advanced materials and industrial decarbonization. (Using hydrogen in steel production also can’t completely eliminate emissions, though it reduces them by as much as 90%.) Energy cost is the biggest expense for steel producers; so a solution that reduces that cost is automatically appealing, Buchanan says. It could help transform the industry globally, not just in places like the European Union where regulation is leading to faster change. With a new round of seed funding from At One Ventures, a VC firm founded by former Google X leader Tom Chi, Helios plans to demonstrate its technology at a larger scale and begin building pilot plants. Simultaneously, it’s preparing the tech for use in upcoming lunar missions over the next two years. But the steel technology will likely be profitable faster. Changes can happen relatively quickly in the industry, Geifman says, because it’s relatively concentrated despite its massive size. “If you work with the 10 or 20 biggest producers in the world, that’s a major chunk of the global production,” he says. This article was originally published by Fast Company.


H

ealth

A New Angle on Aging in Place: The Virtual Village

The Village Model Supports Living at Home and Staying Independent as We Age

By Heidi Godman

- referrals to vetted services and suppliers.

For most of us, Plan A for long-term housing is pretty simple: live at home, independently, for as long as possible. Plan B gets more complicated. What will happen when we need assistance getting groceries, maintaining the house, going to the doctor, and staying socially connected? The answer for some people is a grassroots trend called a “virtual village.”

Because a village is run by volunteers (although there might be one or two paid staffers), membership may be free or as much as $1,200 per year. There may be fees for some services, too, such as repairs.

THE VILLAGE MODEL A virtual village isn’t a place. It’s a group of people who live in their own homes, near each other, and agree to help each other. They form a self-governing nonprofit organization that offers membership to any household within its coverage area, which could include one or many neighborhoods. Village members volunteer, based on their skills, to provide services such as - managing the village’s dedicated help hotline - transportation - errands - household repairs - friendly visits and telephone check-ins - social and educational events - exercise groups - technology support

HEALTH BENEFITS Living in a village helps you remain independent and offers peace of mind that you have a support system. “The village won’t replace an assisted living facility or nursing home, if that’s what you need, but it may help delay the transition,” says Dr. Susanne Hartmann, a geriatrician with Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Many of my patients move into assisted living because transportation becomes a big issue. Or they might need a private aide because they’re no longer safe by themselves. If a village can solve transportation issues, or help them find an aide, they may no longer have to leave home.” A village also keeps people socially connected, which staves off loneliness and isolation -- factors associated with chronic disease, cognitive decline, and premature death.

THE VILLAGE TREND The first virtual village was founded in 2002, in Boston’s

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)Credit: (TNS

Beacon Hill neighborhood. Two decades later, there are now 280 villages coast-to-coast in the United States, with 80 more in development, and their demographics are increasingly diverse. “There’s a village in Oakland, Calif., that is mostly Asian American. There’s an African American village in Washington, D.C., that received funding through the D.C. government. We’re all asking the same question, which is, ‘How do we survive and live in our community, and what services do we need?’” says Barbara Sullivan, executive director of the Village to Village Network. VTV is the national nonprofit group that offers guidance on starting a village and maintaining its services. The rise in villages also has the attention of Harvard researchers, who expect the trend to keep growing. “The 80-and-older population will double in the next 12 years. That’s an age when disability takes a sharp turn upward, and we see an increased need for services like transportation. That speaks to me about the coming need,” says Jennifer Molinsky, who leads research exploring housing challenges for the aging population at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

FIND A VILLAGE If you’re interested in finding a village in your area, you can check out the Village to Village website (www. vtvnetwork.org ). It has a map of villages throughout the

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A virtual village isn’t a place. It’s a group of people who live in their own homes, near each other, and agree to help each other. United States and information about how to contact them. You might also get village information at your local senior center or regional Area Agency on Aging, part of a network of more than 600 agencies that receive federal funding to coordinate older adult support services and provide referrals to them. To find yours, go to https:// www.health.harvard.edu/ecl. And it’s a good idea to consult your doctor about whether the village model would be a good fit for your health and abilities -- the sooner, the better. “Getting involved when you’re still mentally and physically active will give you the best chance of living in your own home longer,” Dr. Hartmann says. “You benefit at any age when you have a strong community and social network.” This article was originally published by Harvard Health.


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Ursula von der Leyen: The First Woman to Lead the EU By Majalla Illustration by Jeannette Khouri Ursula von der Leyen succeeded Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission in December 2019, making her the first woman to hold the position. “It’s like coming home for me,” she said of her newly appointed role. Von der Leyen, who was born in Brussels, is primarily in charge of Brexit negotiations (which are still ongoing), new EU laws, trade deals, and rule enforcement. In a nutshell, she is in charge of legislation affecting over 700 million Europeans. She made one thing clear almost immediately after taking office: she supports the fight against climate change by promising a “European Green Deal” in which greenhouse gas emissions will be zero by 2050. Von der Leyen was the former German defense minister before taking on her current position. She was Angela Merkel’s longest-serving cabinet member, serving from 2005 to 2019. When she assumed her new position, she appointed a team of 27 EU commissioners, including 12 women at the top table. Von der Leyen was not the first choice for the most powerful position in the EU. She was not particularly popular in her previous role among Germany’s armed forces, and she only emerged as a candidate for Commission chief after initial compromise deals fell through.

After a political stalemate over other candidates, she was eventually nominated by EU member states and backed by the European Parliament. Despite growing up in an influential family home as the daughter of the long-serving Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Ernst Albrecht, she always fought her way into the upper echelons of politics with great willpower and inexhaustible energy. UvdL, as she is known in Berlin’s political circles, is a strong woman: a fully qualified physician, a mother of seven children, a skilled dressage rider, and one of Germany’s most experienced female politicians. In her first state of the union speech as EU commissioner, the 63-year-old spoke out strongly against Poland’s anti-LGBTQIA+ policies in September 2020. “Being yourself is not your ideology,” von der Leyen told MEPs in Brussels at the European Parliament. “It’s part of your identity,” she explained. “So let me be clear: LGBTQI-free zones are humanity-free zones.” And they are not welcome in our union.” Despite her family’s influence, she entered politics relatively late. Ursula moved to London to study economics in order to distance herself from her domineering family. This, however, was not what she desired. She interrupted her studies in London and returned to Hanover to study medicine. She met her future husband while attending university there. Ursula von der Leyen had developed nearly perfect English skills as well as a deep understanding of America and the Anglo-Saxon mentality during her

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time abroad. She worked in a hospital for five years in Hanover. Finally, in 2003, von der Leyen made the leap into politics. This was the beginning of a meteoric career. On her first attempt, she was elected to the Lower Saxony state parliament and appointed State Minister for Health and Social Affairs despite her inexperience. This was only the start. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, quickly recognized her potential. As Berlin’s Minister for Family Affairs, von der Leyen successfully fought for the right of children to public day care and the integration of work and family life. After beginning a long campaign for female quotas in German management and supervisory boards four years later, as Federal Minister of Labor, she continued to rise. Ursula von der Leyen had long been regarded as the frontrunner among potential successors to Chancellor Merkel. As a result, Merkel presented her with her most difficult challenge to date by appointing her to the most difficult position possible in Berlin in 2013: Minister of Defense. Suddenly, UvdL’s popularity began to dwindle. Von der Leyen was never able to form a meaningful relationship with the soldiers. Mrs. von der Leyen is known to be a workaholic. The most powerful woman in Europe was accustomed to spending her days at work. Her position does not come with an official residence, so when she isn’t travelling for work or visiting her family in Germany, von der Leyen sleeps in a 270-square-foot


room right next to her desk. That unusual decision came in handy when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, 102 days into her term. With fierce disagreements over border closures and tense negotiations on an economic rescue package, it appeared that the EU was about to fall apart. “We were in crisis mode,” she recalls. Others see her as a moral voice, not just a consensus builder. She was the first Western leader to visit

Ukraine following the Russian invasion last April, addressing President Zelensky as “dear Volodymyr” and handing him an initial questionnaire to join the EU. “Your struggle is our struggle,” she explained. She demanded accountability for Russian war criminals in Strasbourg the following month, insisting that President Vladimir Putin must “pay a very high price” for his brutality. For now, maintaining balance in Europe appears difficult. In the midst of the chaos, she struggles to see

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the big picture, whether it’s imagining how the next few weeks or months of war will play out, or imagining where her own career will go after her term at the Commission expires in 2024. She is instead preoccupied with the here and now; “It is stressful and a lot of pressure,” she says. “But whenever I feel like, I’m exhausted, I’ve had it, my next thought is: the people in Ukraine cannot say, I’m exhausted, I’ve had it. I am here to manage this crisis. Then we’ll see.”


o

pinion

Biden in the Middle East: What Promises Will He Give?

By Abdelkader Zaoui

US President Joe Biden is preparing for his first tour to the Middle East from July 13-16, 2022, as President of the United States of America. The tour will take him to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

To demonstrate what they call the “seriousness and credibility” of the US endeavor, these sources refer to two parallel activities by the US president on the sidelines of his meetings with the leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

According to information from credible US sources, discussions during the tour, which has long been prepared for and after extensive consultations, will include multiple political, military, economic and commercial issues of paramount importance for all parties concerned, but the first goal is represented in two main points.

The first one is his insistence on making a visit, even for a few hours, to the territories of the Palestinian National Authority to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and also to inspect a Palestinian-run hospital in East Jerusalem, under the cover of a humanitarian step whose political backgrounds and dimensions are not hidden from observers.

The first is confirming Washington’s commitment to the security of its allies in the region and reassuring them in an effort to dispel any doubts about evading the strategic importance of the Middle East in US foreign policy in favor of focusing on containing China in the Far East, in addition to subjugating Russia and exhausting it in the Ukrainian crisis.

The second activity is an expanded meeting which was held in Saudi Arabia, including the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in addition to the Egyptian president, the Jordanian monarch, and the Iraqi prime minister.

The second point is denying the existence of any American will to withdraw from dealing with the region’s problems and leaving it to face its fate alone in light of the chaotic rivalry it undergoes.

It is a meeting that the US administration was keen to avoid linking to the Abraham Accords, as was promoted by the Israeli side, who believed that the meeting would be a quantitative and qualitative development of the Negev meeting.

This rivalry is mainly fueled by the interventions of some major international powers and the ambitions of regional powers that do not hide their aspirations to expand their religious and sectarian influence or restore the glories of a bygone empire.

From the follow-up of most diplomatic and media sources to whom the process of marketing the presidential tour was entrusted, it is clear that their focus is on only the international and regional circumstances in the context of which this tour comes. Of particular

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import are the negative repercussions on the entire global economy as a result of the war on Ukraine and the concomitant worrying rise in the prices of materials, basic foodstuffs and energy products.

the steps to marginalize the issue of the occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories, and to push for the destruction of any attempt to revive the peace process on the basis of the two-state solution that the US administration is still adopting on paper.

This comes without a single word or even a gesture about the nature of the practical steps that The Arab side expressed its aspiration to rethe US President might propose to the region’s draw a future map of relations with Washington leaders regarding its controversial issues. based on commitment to the declared positions, transparently and disavowing any blackmail on Unsurprisingly, these sources have no infor- human rights issues and others. mation on what practical proposals President Biden might have in his pocket. Even if he had Although the Iranian nuclear situation and the effective suggestions, Biden personally would subversive role played by Tehran’s sectarian not disclose them in advance, because he is militias in Syria, Iraq and Yemen causes conaware that the order of priorities in the region cern to everyone, there is a difference in posidiffers from one country to another. tions regarding the way to deal with the challenges and threats it poses, ranging from: Undoubtedly, this realization prevents him from the risk of angering one party or another for * Whomever seeks to establish an official allifear that this will have negative repercussions ance for the countries of the region against Iran, on the goals he envisages for this tour. These go and pushes for a comprehensive military advenbeyond undoubtedly the concerns of the region ture that destroys the entire nuclear program, as to what is more universal in his country’s open Israel demands. conflict with both Russia and China on more than level. Mr. Biden knows very well what he * Those who call for tightening economic and will hear from the leaders in the region who are financial pressures, and for announcing the stainvited to meet him, who are themselves well tus of the GCC countries to be under the Ameriaware that he is coming reluctantly. can nuclear umbrella, to show more deterrence to Tehran’s ambitions in the region, and to preThis awareness has not prevented all the re- vent a nuclear race in it. gion’s leaders from welcoming the tour since its announcement, based on what they hope to * Whomever is pushing to intensify communiachieve. This welcome was expressed through cation and negotiation in Vienna, and if posofficial statements, as happened in the tripartite sible, in other venues, with the gradual easing Sharm el-Sheikh meeting between the Jorda- of economic sanctions, in order to encourage nian and Bahraini monarchs and the Egyptian Tehran to show greater flexibility. president, and as issued by the Israeli government. The region has also taken practical meas- In view of this discrepancy in positions, which ures of clearly symbolic value, such as Saudi includes other issues as well which may reach Arabia’s raising its oil production, and the co- the point of conflict, it is not clear how the US alition’s approval to extend the armistice and president will respond, nor what promises he cease-fire period in Yemen. will exchange in a region where American politicians are the most experienced and are aware Israel’s first concern is to employ the round for of the reality of its problems, complexities and more Arab openness to it in order to intensify the intertwining of many of them. 63

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According to information from credible US sources, discussions during the tour, which has long been prepared for and after extensive consultations, will include multiple political, military, economic and commercial issues .