The World Today for November 06, 2023

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The Calamity Next Door

EGYPT

Most Egyptians are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians as Israeli forces devastate the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian government, meanwhile, is no friend of Hamas, which massacred Israelis on Oct. 7 and has launched missile attacks on Israel over the past month.

The conflict may be across a border, but analysts are now worried that the war next door may spill into Egypt and destabilize this regional power.

As historian Adam Tooze recently noted in a Foreign Policy magazine podcast, Hamas, which is designated as a terror group by the US and the European Union, is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the militant group that successfully vaulted Mohamed Morsi to Egypt’s presidency in 2013. The current regime under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, an ally of the US, ousted Morsi a year later.

But a wave of refugees from Gaza could revive the Brotherhood and also rekindle Egypt’s conflict with the Bedouin in the Sinai – long marginalized by the country’s rulers – and who have waged a decade-long rebellion against the central government, briefly linking up with jihadists from the terrorist group Islamic State, and killing hundreds of soldiers, the Economist noted. Egyptian officials claim at last to have quelled their revolt, but the Bedouin are protesting again.

Egypt is also suffering economically as of late. Moody’s recently downgraded the country’s credit status, reported Al Jazeera. Record inflation, massive government debt payments, and an increasingly weak currency have led more Egyptians to attempt to migrate to Europe and elsewhere to find better opportunities. Fears of increasing instability could further damage the economy.

This host of problems is why el-Sissi has stationed Egyptian forces on the North African country’s border with Gaza. He wants neither the economic burden of Palestinians refugees who have been trying to escape the violence, nor the risk of letting Hamas militants into Egypt so they might destabilize his country.

“The more unstable things are economically, the easier it is for bad actors in the region to stir the pot,” Christopher Swift, a former US Treasury Department official told Fortune. “Politics, economics and security go together very closely.”

Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords in 1978, bringing an end to hostilities between the two countries and cementing one of the bedrock diplomatic successes of the current Middle Eastern order. But this current crisis is testing that deal. Ordinary Egyptians disapprove of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, argued Middle East Monitor columnist Mahmoud Hassan. And the Egyptian leader, who unlike Jordan has not recalled his ambassador to Israel, has called the Israeli strikes on Gaza “collective punishment.”

Now, Israel has allowed Egypt to send “limited” humanitarian aid to Gaza, the PBS NewsHour reported. This aid is widely viewed as inadequate, however. People have raided aid warehouses containing flour and other staples in Gaza, too, in a sign of civil breakdown in the region that suggests no amount of aid will help until the fighting stops, the Guardian added.

Israel has made diplomatic flubs regarding Egypt, too, since the Hamas attack. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu floated the possibility of relocating the 2.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip to the Sinai peninsula, for example, an idea that the Palestinians rejected and Egypt panned, the Associated Press reported. Netanyahu even lobbied European leaders to pressure Egypt to accept the transplants, the Financial Times wrote.

Israel has the right to defend itself, Israel’s supporters say. But Egypt’s collapse is not in Israel’s national interest, or the region’s.

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THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Today and Tomorrow

ISRAEL/ GAZA

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, discussing how to manage the growing civilian toll of Israel’s assault on Gaza, and what could come after the conflict is over, Reuters reported.

The visit by Blinken to the West Bank is the first highest-level visit by a US official to the territory since Hamas launched its surprise attack on Oct. 7 from the Gaza Strip, killing around 1,400 people and taking 240 others hostage.

On the Palestinian side, more than 10,000 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. On Sunday, Gaza experienced another Internet cutoff.

During the meeting, the US secretary spoke about the increased role the Palestinian Authority should have in Gaza when the conflict is over. He added that an “effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority” would make the most sense to ultimately run the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas told Blinken there should be an urgent ceasefire and that aid should flow into the strip again. US officials told the Washington Post that Abbas indicated a willingness to help govern Gaza if Hamas is deposed.

However, observers questioned whether the Palestinian Authority, which already exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would hold any sway in Hamas-controlled Gaza. The government body has seen its popularity dip amid allegations of fraud, incompetence and widely unpopular security cooperation agreements with Israel.

The West Bank visit came as Blinken met with other Middle Eastern officials across the region, calling for “a humanitarian pause” in the conflict. Even so, he rebuffed calls for a ceasefire, saying that Hamas must be defeated before any ceasefire is implemented to prevent its fighters from regrouping.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also rejected calls for a ceasefire, citing hostages held by Hamas, the Wall Street Journal noted.

Hardening Rights

FRANCE

French President Emmanuel Macron plans to enshrine the right to abortion in the country’s constitution, a move that will make France the first nation to explicitly designate access to the procedure as a protected constitutional right, Forbes reported.

Last week, the president announced that next year “the right of women to choose abortion will become irreversible.”

He submitted an amendment draft to France’s highest administrative body, the Council of State, for review. The draft will then need to be approved by three-fifths of both houses of parliament.

Observers said careful consideration was given to the language of the text, with the “freedom of women” favored over the “right of women” in order to pass the more conservative upper house.

Although abortion has been legal in the country since 1975, the decision to make it a constitutional right is due to worries by women’s groups that the right could be rolled back as it has in other countries.

Early last year, French lawmakers voted to expand the legal window for abortion access from the 12th week of pregnancy to the 14th.

Meanwhile, access to abortion has also been widened elsewhere: In July 2022, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to declare abortion a fundamental right.

In recent years, Latin America has experienced an energized “green wave” movement that has seen the decriminalization of abortion in countries such as Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.

The Stink of Desperation

GUATEMALA

The electoral body responsible for regulating political groups in Guatemala suspended the Seed Movement Party of President-elect Bernardo Arévalo, adding another challenge for the anti-corruption politician as he prepares to take office early next year, the Associated Press reported.

The move came months after a court ordered the party’s suspension following a request from the Attorney General’s Office in July. Authorities cited allegations of misconduct in how the Seed Movement gathered the required signatures for registration years ago.

However, a higher court overruled that court’s decision, saying the party cannot be suspended during the election cycle – which officially ended on Oct. 31.

But after the date passed, the Citizen Registry announced the Seed Movement’s suspension, saying that the original court’s order remained pending.

The electoral body’s decision comes months after Arévalo went on to win the country’s presidential runoff in August and is scheduled to take office in January.

Even so, the president-elect and his party have faced a series of difficulties during and after the election, prompting accusations that the government is attempting to undermine them.

Following the Citizen Registry’s decision, the Seed Movement is now unable to hold assemblies or carry out administrative procedures. Although it can appeal the registry’s decision to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the appeal would have to go through a court because of the judge’s order.

Critics warned that this suspension is unprecedented and politically motivated. US officials expressed concern that the party’s suspension could impact Arévalo’s transition to office.

Arévalo has labeled the suspension an attempted “coup d’état” by the authorities to prevent his inauguration on Jan. 14. Mass protests and road blockades have erupted in response to these legal actions, with demonstrators demanding the resignations of key officials and judicial reform, according to El País.

DISCOVERIES

Broken Friendships

Australia’s modern relationship with its dingoes is not very friendly.

The animals are responsible for attacks on livestock to such an extent that officials implement culls and have even erected a nearly 3,500-mile-long fence to keep the wild dog species at bay.

How far these creatures have fallen.

Long ago, dingoes had an “almost human status” among the country’s Indigenous population centuries ago, Cosmos magazine reported.

For their research, archeologists looked into the bones of seven dingoes buried at an archeological site south of Sydney. They explained that the bones dated between 2,000 and 800 years.

What stood out was the way the animals were buried: The burial process and disposal method resembled those associated with human rites in the same area, according to lead study author Loukas Koungoulos.

Koungoulos noted that some of the remains showed some dingoes had severely worn teeth, which could mean that the animals were being fed large bones and scraps from humans.

One dingo also appeared to have suffered from a severe cancer that restricted its mobility. The burial suggested that the First Nations people at the time took care of it during its final days.

Dingoes arrived in Australia 4,000-8,000 years ago, long after Aboriginal groups were known to exist on Australia’s shores.

Previous research suggested that First Nations temporarily raised them as pups and released them into the wild once they reached sexual maturity.

But the findings showed that even though dingoes weren’t domesticated the same way as modern dogs are, they had an important role in Indigenous life and culture.

“This study adds yet more evidence to the urgent need to respect and conserve the cultural values of dingoes, in addition to their key ecological roles such as keeping herbivore numbers in check,” said Euan Ritchie, a dingo researcher not involved in the study.

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