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The #AbrahamAccords and a changing #MiddleEast

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Whether we call it peace or normalization isn’t very important: The agreements being signed today between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with US President Donald Trump’s guarantee, mark a historical transition that not only reflects the great changes underway within Arab societies, but also upends old dynamics and can change the world, writes Fiamma Nirenstein.

It’s very difficult to recognize the deal for what it is, because Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu don’t enjoy the support of the international press. Moreover, the Palestinians received what was for them a totally surprising refusal from the Arab League to their request to condemn it.

Europe, meanwhile, keeps repeating its old stupid mantras of “illegally occupied territories,” and “two states for two peoples.” It can’t fathom calling the current agreements “peace.”

What, after all, is peace without Palestinians?

Paradoxically, many American Jews and Israelis have joined this very same festival of self-humiliation.

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Nevertheless, history is in the making in Washington today, and not only for the Middle East. What we are witnessing is the construction of a bridge between the three monotheistic religions.
Like it or not, Israel, the Jewish state, is finally integrated into the positive narrative of the region. With actual smiles and handshakes, it has become a recognized Middle Eastern state—part of the landscape of its deserts, mountains, cities and Mediterranean coasts.
Airplanes will be able to fly freely between Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and Manama. Citizens of these countries will travel back and forth. Water will flow. Innovation in medicine, high-tech and agriculture will be shared. It’s a Rosh Hashanah miracle. The Messiah seems to be coming, after all.
“Hope and change” — the empty campaign slogan used by former US President Barack Obama — doesn’t do justice to what is happening before our very eyes. That Saudi Arabia is allowing its airspace to be used for flights between Israel and the Arab world is but one example.
Oman, too, has welcomed the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, as has Egypt. Kuwait is looking on with caution. Even Qatar, a friend and ally of Iran and Hamas, is trying to hedge its bets—as the current agreements have shuffled all the cards.
Other Arab countries expected to normalize relations with Israel in the near future include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco, as well as Sudan, Chad and even Kosovo, a Muslim country, which wants to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
All official statements welcoming the agreements express the hope that the Palestinians will eventually become part of the game again. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, decided on the Abraham Accord after Jerusalem and Washington agreed to suspend, at least temporarily, the application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank as envisaged in Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan.
While the Crown Prince may expect some gratitude from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the latter is not complying, preferring, instead, to talk about Arab “betrayal” and “abandonment”—in concert with Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey and any other proverbial pyromaniac who loves fanning the flames of war.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Lebanon earlier this month to meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and discuss a multi-front terror war against Israel. While there, he announced Hamas’s plan to build on-site smart ballistic missiles. Lebanese newspapers denounced his remarks as an attempt to “destroy Lebanon” by making it the base of a war that its citizens don’t want.
Many say that it’s “not too late for the Palestinians” to reverse their rejectionism. Some believe that it is not in their DNA to extricate themselves from their disastrous comfort zone—one that not only has turned them into veto-masters in the nationalist and then Islamist Middle East, but also rendered them the protagonists of both, which are now waning.
It’s the end. The Middle East has lived with myths and legends. But pan-Arabism, tribal and sectarian tensions, corruption, violence and Islamism (that was used as a substitute weapon for defeated pan-Arabism) are now over in a large part of the world.
The entire fortress has been struck by a resounding wave of enthusiasm for a normal future with—and increased knowledge about—this “Martian” from the planet “Evil,” which Israel had become in the collective Muslim-Arab imagination.
Now, on the one hand, there’s normalization, which has been recognized by new Asian and African leaders (even among the Palestinians, according to expert Khaled Abu Toameh, courageous voices are emerging that despise corruption and terrorist incitement); on the other hand, there is the Tehran-Ankara axis and its friends, soldiers and proxies ready for war. Their aspirations have nothing to do with fighting on behalf of the Palestinians. They are locked in an old ideological terrorist spiral.
The Europeans should have learned from history how to distinguish peace from war. Choosing the former clearly is the better path, unless death and destruction have a strange attraction that magnetizes more than peace and prosperity.
This article was translated from Italian by Amy Rosenthal.
All opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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Belgium

Clashes break out in Brussels in protests over coronavirus restrictions

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Police and protesters clashed in the streets of Brussels on Sunday (21 November) in demonstrations over government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions, with police firing water cannon and tear gas at demonstrators throwing rocks and smoke bombs, witnesses said, write Christian Levaux, Johnny Cotton and Sabine Siebold, Reuters.

About 35,000 people took part in demonstrations, police said, which began peacefully before violence broke out.

Protesters wearing black hoods threw stones at police as they advanced with water cannon at the main junction in front of the European Union Commission headquarters, Reuters journalists said.

Facing up to the police lines, the protesters held hands and chanted "freedom". One protester was carrying a placard reading "when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty".

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Police forces stand guard as people protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) measures near the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Protesters also threw smoke bombs and fireworks, the newspaper Le Soir reported. The situation calmed down later, police said.

Belgium tightened its coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday (17 November), mandating wider use of masks and enforcing work from home, as cases rose in the country's fourth COVID-19 wave. Read more.

There have been 1,581,500 infections and 26,568 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country of 11.7 million people since the pandemic began. Infections are increasing again, with 13,826 new cases reported on average each day.

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Violence has also broken out in anti-restriction protests in Belgium's neighbour the Netherlands in recent days. On Friday, police in Rotterdam opened fire on a crowd.

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European Commission

NextGenerationEU: Commission receives payment request from Spain for €10 billion under the Recovery and Resilience Facility

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The Commission has received the first payment request from Spain under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) for a disbursement of €10 billion in financial support (net of pre-financing). Spain's overall recovery and resilience plan will be financed by €69.5 billion in grants. Payments under the RRF are performance-based and contingent on Spain implementing the investments and reforms outlined in its recovery and resilience plan. This first payment request relates to 52 milestones covering several reforms in the areas of sustainable mobility, energy efficiency, decarbonisation, connectivity, public administration, skills, education and social, labour and fiscal policy.

The Commission now has two months to assess the request. It will then send its preliminary assessment of Spain's fulfilment of the milestones and targets required for this payment to the Council's Economic and Financial Committee. More information on the process of the payment requests under the RRF is available in this Q&A. More information on the Spanish recovery and resilience plan is available here.

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Belgium

'When the Smurfs meet Monkey King'

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'When the Smurfs meet Monkey King' is a children's art exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium.

The successful art exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium in La Louvière, the birthplace of Surrealism in Belgium that ended on 24 October gave the opportunity to nearly 300 local primary and middle school students in just one week to depict their vision of friendship between China and Belgium.

On 17 October, during the opening ceremony, Françoise Ghiot, Laurent Wimlot, aldermen of La Louvière, and their guests from China and Belgium attended the event. Counsellor Yang Qing, wife of the Chinese Ambassador to Belgium, also recorded a video for the inauguration of the event.

Counsellor Yang Qing said in her speech that she admired the exhibition held in La Louvière. Using pure and innocent artistic perspective, extraordinary creativity and imagination, the children have well defined the cultural elements of both countries. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium with children’s eyes, sincere feelings, those future ambassadors of friendship have expressed their visions of a better collaborative future between the two nations.

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Ghiot said in her speech that she was very happy on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium to see children’s paintings from China. The art exhibition opened a skylight of artistic exchange for local children.

This children's art exhibition was jointly curated by the city of La Louvière, the Nardone Gallery, and Yellow Vitamines. Through the LPGA (Little Painter Global International Art Exhibition), covering 40 cities and 500 aesthetic education training institutions in China, 5000 children’s work were collected and 200 were finally selected to focus on Belgium. With the innocent help of children's brushes, imagination and understanding, art and culture provided an ideal medium to understanding differences and strengthening the bond between China and Belgium.

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