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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 5, 2014 Russian Presidential Press and Information Office Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah E1-Sisi visit Russia's Moskva missile cruiser on Aug. 12, 2014. By Sean Savage JNS .org With old alliances be- ing frayed and new threats emerging, making sense of the rapidly changing Middle East :is increasingly difficult for even seasoned observers and analysts. Disgruntled by President Barack Obama's fore ign policy in the region, some long-time American allies such as Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have begun openly criticizing the U.S. approach to issues like the Gaza conflict, with some even pivoting towards Russia. At the same time, the civil wars in Syria and Libya as well as instability in Iraq have proven to be fertile breeding ground for new and more brutal ter- rorist organizations, forcing regional and international actors into new alliances to meet this common threat. While the world was fo- cused on Israel and Gaza or the threat of the Islamic State terror group over the past month, new Egyptian President Abdel Fattah EI-Sisi quietly made his first visit to Moscow on Aug. 12. "Moscow recognizes Egypt as one of the central regional powe 's in the [Middle East], where Russia will try to strengthen its presence in the near future," Dr. Olena Bagno- Moldavsky, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Israel, told It is no secret that the U.S.- Egypt relationship has been strained in recent years. An extremely Va!ued American ally since the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords, Egypt has received more than $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid, second to only Israel. But the U.S. supported the early ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, which angered other regional U.S. allies--like Saudi Arabia--who felt that the U.S. abandoned its long- time partner too quickly. Adding to the complica- tions, the U.S. also backed the Muslim Brotherhood government under former president Mohamed Morsi, who was elected in Egypt's first democratic election. When Morsi was ousted in a popular military coup in July 2013 led by EI-Sisi, then the defense minister, the U.S. temporarily suspended some of its military aid to Egypt over concerns related to de- mocracy and human rights. Yet Russian President Vlad- imir Putin, in his dealings with Ukraine, has shown that he has little concern for issues relating to democracy and human rights. Like Putin, El-Sisi is a nationalist leader who values stability, especially in light of the growing threat of political Islam from the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadist groups. Besides the countries' hared political philosophies, Egypt is a big market for Russia in terms of trade and regional politics, said Bagno- Moldavsky of INSS. "Egypt is a desirable cus- tomer of Russia's military complex (the contracts with Russia will be actualized with the financial support of Egypt by the Saudi Arabia), cooperation can be potentially fruitful in the energy sector and civil engineering," Bagno- Moldavsky said. Despite El-Sisi's trip to Mos- cow, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf in a press' conference after he visit, called the U.S.- Egypt relationship "strong and strategic," downplaying any significant rift. "Egypt is free to have re- lationships with whoever it wants," Harf said. Middle East Forum Presi- dent Daniel Pipes told JNS. org that he believes Egypt's gesture towards Moscow is a result of the U.S. position regarding Hamas-backing nations Qatar and Turkey in recent Israel-Hamas cease- fire negotiations. "EI-Sisi is again signaling his anger at the U.S. govern- ment for cozying up to the Turkey-Qatar joint venture," Pipes said. Indeed, Egypt, along with other U.S. regional allies Is- rael and Saudi Arabia, openly criticized U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for holding Israel-Hamas cease-fire talks with Qatar and Turkey in late July, but not including them. At the same time, Qatar has been actively undermining its fellow Arab states by support- ing the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt and Saudi Arabia have declared to be a terrorist organization, as well as its Palestinian offshoot Hamas. Pipes, however, cautioned not to read too much into Egypt's newfound love for Putin, saying he believes it comes more out of anger towards the U.S. and is not a major geopolitical shift back to the Cold War days. "This is not the 1950s. It's an Axis of Pique, not one of grand strategy," Pipes said. Over the past several years, the Middle East has been Craditionally divided into two camps in what Pipes referred to as the "Middle East Cold War." Pipes said this conflict has pitted the "resistance bloc and its allies" of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah, who are tacitly supported by Russia, against the "status quo" countries of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and others--even auxiliary members like the Palestinian Authority and Israel--who are largely aligned with the U.S. But more recently, another faction has emerged that has challenged this dynamic. "In the past two years, a third, smaller faction has emerged: the Turkish-Qatari- Muslim Brotherhood one," Pipes said. "This comes as a considerable surprise because the Saudis for decades sup- ported the Muslim Brother- hood. But, apparently, when the crunch came and they had to decide between Islamism and method of rule, they chose the latter." Meanwhile, in Libya, the weak government there was recently aided in its fight against al-Qaeda-linked ter- ror groups by secret airstrikes launched by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, who have stepped up their fight against Islamic radicals. Even the U.S. was caught by surprise by these airstrikes, reports indicate. Similarly, Israel has seen tensions with the U.S. rise in the wake of the failures of the American-brokered Israeli- Palestinian peace process. This recently came to a head when the Obama administra- tion, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, tightened oversight of arms transfers to Israel amid Opera- tion Protective Edge in Gaza. Adding to the complica- tions, both Qatar and Turkey are longtime allies of the U.S., which has its largest Mideast airbase--A1-Udeid Air Base--in Qatar, while Turkey is a valued member of NATO. Before a cease-fire was reached Tuesday, Israel saw both countries as actively undermining efforts to end the Gaza conflict. Embattled Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al- Assad, meanwhile, has seen his fortunes rise once again as the new threat from the Islamic State poses a greater risk to regional and interna- tional security. With the U.S. launching airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State and considering hitting Islamic State targets in Syria, Assad has expressed his willingness to coordinate attacks on the terror group with the U.S. But Pipes cautioned against such moves, arguing that U.S. should remain focused on helping its allies. "The outside world is best off when the monsters fight each other," he said. "We should limit ourselves to humanitarian concerns and to helping our very few allies in the region--mainly Israel, but also now the Kurds." Considering all the regional changes, many have criticized the U.S. for its lack of engage- ment and for allowing these problems to fester, but Pipes said America is not solely to blame. "Like most,developments in the Middle East, this is indigenous, with influences from the outside, to be sure, but driven by local passions," he said. use nc By Abdullah H. Erakat The Media Line Following the taking of attendance and the reading of the opening chapter of the Koran, some homeroom classes across the West Bank are devoting time to educate students on the importance of Supporting local products. A second lesson comes after lunch and recess, when the Students line up to return to classrooms. The goal is to get kids to support products made in the West Bank, which include Pal- estinian-made stationary and school supplies, medicines, and even school uniforms. The Ministry of Education sent out letters to teachers detailing the new emphasis along with posters encouraging students to"eatwhatwe plantandwear what we make.', The school campaign comes amid agrowing trend in the West Bank to boycott Israeli products in the wake of the fighting between Israel and Hamas that left at least 2200 Palestinians dead and widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip. "The letter that we sent to the principals and teachers was not political," an official in the Palestinian Ministry of Education told The Media Line. "He spoke on the con- dition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk on the subject. "No Israeli factory manufactures like a Palestinian factory and we want our kids to know that," he claims. A source in the Palestinian government told The Media Line that an official decision to boycott Israeli products has never been declared. The idea to step up the utilization was presented by the Palestinian Federation of Paper Industries, on behalf of the industrial zone. Attached to it was a poster that read, "Yes to Palestinian products." The letter was sent during Israel's 53 day war on the Gaza Strip. The 0fficial says his minis- try was asked to help create more awareness of the impor- tance of national products. "They're also cheaper (than Israeli products)," he said. The" official directly responsible for this portfolio says they are not targeting only Israeli products. "If a student has a choice between a Palestinian product and a Turkish product, we want him to pick the Palestin- ian one," he said. The New Generation School for boys and girls in the West Bank village of Abu Dis is one school that is following the instructions from the Palestinian Ministry of Edu- cation at the start of the new school year.- "You need to teach things beyond Arabic, Math and English. You need to plant in their brains how they need to contribute to the national goals of their communities," said Terry Boullata, the prin- cipal of the private school. She also told The Media Line that the ideology is about the "popular acceptance of a decision that is coming, logi- cally, reasonably, and at the right moment and time." Boullata says the images on television of the death and devastation in the Gaza Strip, was upsetting for all Palestinians, and rejecting Israeli goods is one way to express their anger. She says parents tell her that children are asking their parents not to buy Israeli dairy products such as those made by the large cooperative Tnuva, but to buy similar Palestinian products by smaller dairies such as Jebrin and Janedi. Boullata said that all Israeli snacks have been removed from the cafeteria. "I have 400 kids in my school and they are all watching me to see if I bring Israeli products to the school," she said insisting that by doing this, they are not brain washing children. If a child were to bring an Israeli product to school, he or she would not be punished or sent home, because creat- ing awareness can never be by force, but by a dialogue with the children." "The children can discuss this among themselves," she said. "One will ask another "why are you drinking the Israeli milk? Did you try the Palestinian milk? It's good." The children go back to their parents, and say "Dad, my friends are using the Palestin- ian milk, why don't we use it?" The Ministry insists that it is not working with any boycott organization. But officials from the Palestin- ian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement tell a different story. "We are working with school-age boys and girls, that's where we are going to consolidate the boycott. In every house, you have a school-age boy or girl who will be a real watcher of that commitment," activist Mustafa Barghouti told The Media Line. Barghouti is also the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initia- tive, a political party expected to give Hamas or Fatah a run for its money if new elections are ever held. The Palestinians say they have been advocating the boycott of Israeli products for years now as a way to express non-violent resistance to Israeli policies. Originally a call to shun products from Jewish communities in areas that Israel acquired in 1967, and which Palestinians say must be part of a future Pal- estinian state, the campaign has become a rejection of all Israeli-made products. Israel exports to the West Bank total $4.2 billion. Barg- houti says consumption of Israeli products in the West Bank is down by 50 percent, but economists say that may be an exaggeration. Palestin- ian economist Jafar Sadaqa says production in local Palestinian factories is up 30 to 50 percent, and eight new factories have been given licenses to open. 'Sadaqa says it's not pos- sible to say exactly holy much Israel has been affected by the boycott. "What we know, is yes, this is affecting Israel's economy. But by how much? That re- mains to be seen," he told The Media Line adding that the 'real test' is that the boycott continues long after the Gaza war. He says Palestinian facto- ries arehiring more workers which is expected to bring down the unemployment rate. Azmi Abd al-Rahman, the Director-General of Policy and Economic Studies and spokesman for the Palestin- ian Ministry of Economy said that observing the boy- cott of Israeli goods could create 70,00.0 - 100,000 new jobs. Palestinian businessman Jeryes Sharbainwho sells text- books to Palestinian schools said that, like many others, he began looking for alternatives to Israeli products during the recent Israeli war on Gaza. "With our money, we were putting bullets in their guns," he told The Media Line. At Abu Rami Stores in Abu Dis, owner Omar Salah was known for carrying Is- raeli products. But he says, his.customers have told him that they do not want to see these products in the store. In all of his years running the supermarket, he says "this is the most real the boycott has ever been." He says consumption of Israeli products is down 66 percent especially when it comes to the dairy products. Many of his Israeli-made dairy products expired because they were not purchased and he called the Israeli distribution companies to come and take them. At the same time, there are still a lot of Israeli products on his shelves. Yet he says, when these run out, he does not plan to order more.