Thursday 29 November 2012

Interview in Kuwait Times

Analyst sees a wave of economic reforms in Kuwait after election – Boycott of polls a wrong tactic: Prof Nalapat

p9a3 Analyst sees a wave of economic reforms in Kuwait after election   Boycott of polls a wrong tactic: Prof Nalapat
Prof M D Nalapat
KUWAIT: Prof M D Nalapat, who arrived in Kuwait as an election observer from India, is  Director, Geopolitical & International Relations, Manipal University. In a brief interview with Friday Times, Prof Nalapat, expresses his views on Kuwait parliamentary election to be held tomorrow and hopes that it will pave the way for a wave of economic reforms ushering in positive changes to the country. Prof Nalapat is also UNESCO Peace Chair and a renowned academician. The former Coordinating Editor of the Times of India, Prof Nalapat writes extensively on security matters and international affairs and is a columnist for the Sunday Guardian and the Pakistan Observer. Excerpts:
Question: You were here in February to observe a parliamentary election and now in November, once again there is an election. To what do you attribute such a situation?
Answer: I have been an observer of Kuwait for more than fifteen years, and it was clear during the functioning of the parliament (after the 2012) elections that a deadlock had been created. More than thirty legislators opposed whatever the government proposed, and as a consequence, several projects were delayed. Many ministers became reluctant to implement big projects because of worry that they would get grilled by the post-2012 legislative majority.
The people of Kuwait want faster economic growth. They want more jobs and higher incomes. This can only come if projects get implemented speedily rather than get delayed because of political deadlock.
Q:      How do you expect that an election will remove such a deadlock?
A: Because of the strategic mistake made by those who secured a majority during the February 2012 elections, of boycotting the November elections. In a democracy-and Kuwait certainly qualifies as a democracy – boycotting an election is a wrong tactic. In India, in 1939, the Congress Party withdrew from governance and resigned its electoral posts. As a consequence, the Muslim League gained in influence and finally, the partition of India (through the creation of Pakistan) was the result. A democrat should not be afraid of elections, she or he should contest them.
Those (in the previous legislature) who are refusing to contest the elections due on December 1 are ensuring the victory of those who have a view different from theirs. In my view, the new parliament will be much more supportive of development projects rather than block projects in order to grill ministers all the time.
Q:  In view of the boycott call by some politicians, do you expect a low turnout this time?
A:  In my view, the level of participation will be the same (as during February 2012). This is because the people of Kuwait appreciate the fact that they have a right to vote, a right that is not given to citizens of some other countries in the region. Certainly democracy in Kuwait is not perfect, and more reform is needed. However, it is a fact that Kuwait is far and away the most democratic country in the region, and Kuwaitis know this and appreciate this. They take democracy seriously, they take the right to vote seriously and hence will come out to vote on December 1 in large numbers.
Q:   Why do you feel Kuwait will make faster progress after this election?
A: Kuwait needs to go into a big wave of economic reform, such as privatizing huge state monopolies such as Kuwait Airways, which would function much better under private management. Of course, such privatization should be conducted in a transparent way without favorites, so that the best buyer gets the prize. The new parliament knows that the Kuwaiti public is very interested in ensuring clean government, so I am sure that the elected parliamentarians, while allowing growth to take place through economic reforms, will ensure that the process is fair and transparent.
Kuwait has huge financial resources. Rather than rot in banks in Europe that could go bust at any time, these reserves should be used to create a better life, a  better future, for the Kuwaiti people. I have every confidence that this will be done.
What political reforms do you feel Kuwait needs?
A : The people of Kuwait are wise and the ruling Al-Sabah family is modern.  I am sure that the ruling family and the Kuwaiti people will mutually come up with necessary reforms, in an atmosphere free from rancor and abuse.
By Sajeev K Peter, Kuwait Times Staff

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Sino-Indian trade prospective gold mine (Global Times)

By M.D. Nalapat
Global Times | 2012-11-26 23:35:04

China and India held the second round of strategic economic talks in New Delhi Monday. Although there has been celebration - and surprise - at the rising level of Sino-Indian trade, the reality is that this has the potential to reach $150 billion, or double the present level, by 2016, and go even higher to $300 billion well before the current decade ends.

India is at the same stage of development that China was in the mid-1980s, and therefore has an enormous need for infrastructure and technology.

The optimal low-cost, high-quality option for sourcing such need is China, a country that has already passed through the cycle of massive infrastructure spending which India is entering upon.

Another requirement is energy, both conventional, such as thermal and hydro, as well as alternative, such as solar and wind power.

In these fields as well, Chinese companies provide options that are of the requisite quality and at a price 30 to 40 percent cheaper than the range offered by Japanese, US and European competitors. Small wonder that even after India's "Western lobby" recently slapped a 21 percent duty on Chinese power equipment, orders are still flowing in.

The third field is telecoms, where again Chinese manufacturers offer lower prices and reasonable quality.

However, trade cannot be a one-way street. Already there are murmurs of protest from manufacturers in India about the $24 billion surplus in trade that China has with India.

While the smaller economy cannot match its bigger neighbor in most lines of manufacturing, India has a competitive advantage in services and software.

One way of reducing the trade imbalance would be for State-owned enterprises in China to start buying Indian software, rather than relying only on Western software providers, most of whom then outsource their orders to Indian companies.

Chinese officials, especially those educated in the West, have an exaggerated respect for Western countries, and need to appreciate that Indian software is not just cheaper than such providers but better. Just as Europeans "buy European" whenever they can, we in Asia must "buy Asian."

Another field where India can expand its commercial operations in China is education.

Within India, nearly 300 million people speak one or the other variant of the English language, and rather than turn to high-cost and faraway locations such as the UK or Australia to get education in the international link language, India can be depended upon to provide an expanding number of teachers of the language, at a cost far below that charged by those from the UK, the US or Australia.

India has several world class institutes and universities that can set up operations in China by imparting training in engineering, medicine and management in the English language.

This would enable those Chinese youngsters who lack the funds to study in Western countries to get an equivalent education in their own country.

The "secret weapon" that China has to ensure that it becomes the biggest force in international markets is finance.

China is the only country that has huge reserves of financial capital which can be deployed to boost exports.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is the only other source of such volumes of ready capital, although as yet this region remains tied to Western producers for most of their needs, despite the higher risk and cost.

Should China implement a strategy of deploying project finance in countries such as India order to promote exports of manufactures, the resulting boost in orders would compensate for lower volumes in Europe.

It is at such a time that the Second India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue has taken place in Delhi on November 26, with nearly 200 senior officials and businesspersons attending on each side.

The dialogue has created a mechanism to take trade between China and India forward, so that the advantages of geographical proximity, civilizational congruence and mutual economic synergy can get better tapped.

Hopefully, those in other countries who wish to see a gulf developing between China and India will be disappointed, so that their own selfish interests in both countries can be served.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Time to set up tribunals for mass terror attacks (Sunday Guardian)

MNS members celebrate the hanging of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, near CST station in Mumbai on 21 November. PTI.
resident Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde have done what their immediate predecessors failed to do, which was to implement the death sentence awarded to Amir Ajmal Kasab, an auxiliary of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This columnist is in favour of the repeal of the death penalty, except in cases of mass terror attacks. Those perpetrating such deeds need to have their lives extinguished before they can take away dozens more innocents. Thanks to Tukaram Omble, it was possible to capture alive one of the ISI's men as he swept across south Mumbai spraying bullets at passers-by. Given the certainty of guilt in Kasab's case, it is a reflection of the glacial pace of the legal system in India that it took four years before his life was taken away in retaliation for the mass terror deaths caused by him. Of course, four years constitutes lightning speed in India, a country where lawyers pass on cases to their children and grandchildren while clients limp towards insolvency.
After news of the hanging broke, an army of voices gasped their dismay on television screens. Delhi is a city of embassies, and for several of the well-known faces within India's own Beltway (or Raisina way), there can be nothing more satisfying than to be lionised at such gatherings by those whose job it is to mouth insincere remarks for the sake of their country and its interests. In the 1990s, those most welcome in embassies, which were known for excellent wine and company, were people who professed to be aghast at India's effrontery in not handing over Kashmir to the jihadi groups seeking to convert it into another Talibanised state. Those who saw the preservation of territorial integrity as important earned the displeasure of diplomats from the European Union, the United States, China, the Gulf Co-operation Council and Japan (all of whom opined that India should make sacrifices that they would be horrified were their own governments to follow). BBC, CNN and other channels competed with each other to lionise the "freedom fighters" of Kashmir, an affectation that 9/11 did much to cure them off. Those saying that Kasab should have been spared, perhaps be given citizenship in recognition of his presumed repentance, are the ones feted at embassy parties these days.
The “no to the death penalty” crowd would carry more conviction if they expressed a similar concern about the dozens of lives being lost each month in cities across India because of dengue.
The "no to the death penalty" crowd would carry more conviction if they expressed a similar concern about the dozens of lives being lost each month in cities across India because of dengue. Or of the millions of infants who die without seeing their first birthday, because of the abysmal condition of ante-natal care in a country so professedly dedicated to the welfare of the "Aam Aadmi". However, on such deaths they are silent, for mentioning them does not get an attractive tinkle of appreciative attention from the charming young things who attach themselves to ageing editors and politicians at such get-togethers. While talking of the Kasab hanging makes a balding, middle-aged official the object of "huggy puggy" SMS darts from pert beauties, brooding over malaria fails to excite a similar response.
However, even for the overwhelming majority of citizens happy at the Kasab hanging, rather than wallow in self-satisfaction, what is needed is for some Anna Hazare clone to come forward and demand the setting up of Special Tribunals to try cases where mass terror attacks are involved. These ought to be manned not only by judges but by security experts as well as a sprinkling of the general public. They ought to be given time-bound procedures, without the right of appeal to the broader judicial system. After all, surely the prevention of terror attacks is as important as boosting tax collections. If there can be tax tribunals, why not terror tribunals?

PM plays the business card with China (Sunday Guardian)


Indian PM Manmohan Singh with his Chiinese counterpart Wen Jiabao
t last count, 187 prominent officials and businesspersons from China have reached Delhi for the 26 November Sino-Indian Strategic Economic Dialogue, first held in Beijing in September 2011. They are to discuss a slew of policy measures which in total are expected to give a significant boost to the already-substantial trade between the two countries. While the Indian delegation will be headed by Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Ahluwalia, the Chinese delegation is led by National Development & Reform Commission Chairman Zhang Ping, and contains five individuals of Vice-Minister rank. The Chinese side are aware that the decline in Europe's economic fortunes has made the Indian market necessary for Chinese exports to grow, especially in telecom, energy and infrastructure, in each of which the market in India is in excess of $100 billion.
Senior ministers such as Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram are known to be close to the NATO bloc, and may therefore be expected to be lukewarm towards a quantum leap in Sino-Indian trade (at the expense mainly of NATO member-states). However, their stance is being countered by the Prime Minister himself, who (in the words of a senior official) "is aware that China has the largest pool of investible resources in the world" and can therefore act as a magnet for both the public as well as the private sector in India, given the paucity of funds after the 2008 financial crash in NATO capitals. "The PM also appreciates the fact that only by sourcing equipment and technology from China can power and telecom sectors get a boost that still keeps prices low," another official pointed out, adding that "rival countries are playing on security fears in order to keep away competitive products from China." That the Intelligence Bureau and other security agencies rely heavily on input from France, the UK and the US is no secret.
Among the items to be discussed on Monday is the possibility of China getting involved in the provision of high-speed rail corridors within India. In exchange, the Indian side will offer expertise in computerised systems, especially ticket booking and other services. Roads and highways are another sector that may be opened to Chinese companies, although the presence of naval fleets close to major ports means that this sector will continue to remain out of bounds. "Cheap and quick finance is the key that can enable China to beat competition (from NATO bloc economies)", a key diplomat revealed, adding that "only China and the GCC have investible resources of the magnitudes needed", now that the EU is close to insolvency and the US is skidding on the brink of a "fiscal cliff".
Other sectors where large-scale Chinese investment may be welcomed is energy, both conventional and alternative. Water conservation and utilisation is another sector where PRC expertise is seen to be useful. "Giving loans to Indian corporates and to public sector entities such as the Railways would help narrow the deficit between what China sells to India and what it buys," a senior official said, adding that "India would in exchange market its software and service industry skills" to China. Another field is education, where quality Indian universities can set up English-language campuses in China.
The delegation from Beijing is being taken to Bangalore on 27 November, so that this country's software skills can be showcased. "The PM has decided that he wants to generate a Big Bang in Sino-Indian relations the way he achieved with India-US ties in the first term," a top diplomat claimed, adding that "the fact that PM is foursquare behind this China outreach is expected to silence the lobbies of other countries nervous at China grabbing markets that were their monopolies". Will NATO's admirers prevail or will Manmohan Singh? The coming months will give the answer to that question.

Friday 23 November 2012

Make peace thru prosperity in Gaza (PO)

By M D Nalapat

Friday, November 23, 2012 - As are many other citizens of India,this columnist is an admirer ofIsrael,and even more so,the Jewish people. Person to person,the Jewish community has created more works of art,literature and science than any other community across the globe.Only the tiny Parsi community in India or this country’s Jains comes close to matching the achievements of the Jews. As a people,they are liberal and tolerant,and avoid proselytizing as a means towards increasing their number. Which is why it has been a surprise to see the way in which successive governments in Israel have implemented policies designed to ensure that the people of Gaza (and to a lesser extent,the West Bank) remain mired in the hopelessness of poverty. Such a strangulation of the economic potential of Gaza is negative not only for the Palestinian people - who are among the most talented within the Arab world - but for Israel itself. Just as swamps breed deadly mosquitoes, the gullies and ghettoes of Gaza have become the homes of tens of thousands of unemployed youth, each of whom nurses anger against Israel for denying him or her a future

Certainly non-violence of the kind made world famous by Mahatma Gandhi in the 1930s is the only way the Palestinian people will ever gain full sovereignity.Israel has become a permanent part of the architecture of West Asia,and cannot be airbrushed from the map the way Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran imagines will happen.Should there be normal diplomatic and commercial relations between the Arab world and Israel,it would be to the benefit of both sides.The Israelis would vastly increase their prosperity and thereby free themselves of their present fiancial dependence on a cash-strapped United States of America. The Arab world would gain access to Israeli technology in water harvesting,solar power and numerous other fields in which laboratories in Israel have become world leaders. The Muslim people lived in peace and harmony with the Jewish people during the Golden Age of Islam,a period when the faith spread not through the sword but by the power of Example. Certainly harmonious relations between two “People of the Book” are essential to a better future for a region that is one of the cradles of human civilisation

With its decision to shift from Damascus to Doha,Hamas has clearly accepted that the way of violence is no longer a geopolitically feasible option in its struggle to ensure a better life for Palestinians. Unlike Syria,which is the opposite of a strategic partner of the NATO powers,the State of Qatar is closely aligned to NATO,especially the US. Thus,it is unlikely to allow Hamas to launch operations which would compromise Doha’s own cosy relationship with Washington. The re-location of Hamas from Damascus to Doha has been immensely helpful in enabling President Obama to enforce a cease-fire ending nine days of hostilities between Gaza and Israel. As in the past,it is ordinary Gazans who have suffered horribly during this period,having lost many lives and homes at the price of five Israeli deaths.Although the Republican Party falsely accused Barack Obama of abandoning Israel,an untruth in which Bibi Netanyahu participated because of his desire to ensure a Romney victory on November 4,the fact is that the policy of the US President has been to give Israel robust means of self-defense,such as the Iron Dome Missile Defense System,which blocked more than nine out of ten Hamas rockets from ever hitting the ground in Israel

Bibi Netanyahu seems to be a far cry from the 5000-year culture and traditions of the Jewish people. He seems to be in the mould of Ariel Sharon,who too believed that Palestinians could be bludgeoned into permanent submission. Unfortunately for both Israel as well as the Palestinians,Netanyahu has continued Sharon’s policy of blocking trade and commerce into and out of Gaza. He has prevented that territory from achieving its natural destination,which is to be the Singapore of West Asia. Were Gaza to be allowed to set up a world-class airport and an international airport, the people inhabiting the tiny territory would soon turn their minds away from violence into commerce.Hopefully,President Morsi of Egypt will join hands with President Obama to persuade Netanyahu to allow Gaza to develop into a modern city capable of providing high-income jobs to the versatile and talented Palestinian people. Both the US and Egypt can set up a security system which ensures that Gaza be made wholly demilitarized and there be zero security risk to Israel from permitting a modern seaport and airport to get built in Gaza. The Arab people are true to their tradition of hospitality and generosity,and it is certain that Abu Dhabi,Qatar,Kuwait and Saudi Arabia will provide the funds needed to rapidly modernize infrastructure in Gaza

While a comprehensive settlement between Israel and its neighbours may be some time away,just as took place over the Sinai desert,a settlement between Israel and Gaza can be arrived at,which ensures the speedy development of Gaza in a manner that safeguards Israel’s security needs. Certainly Egypt and the US together have the clout and ability to ensure such an outcome. For too long have the people of Gaza suffered from the restrictions imposed by Israel,blockades that have degraded rather than improved Israel’s longer-tern interests. A close fit between Israel and its neighbours is vital for both sides,and should Bibi Netanyahu follow the example of Menachem Begin,he would begin the process in Gaza.Incidentally,the NATO powers (who are their own worst enemies) need to remember that Hezbollah refused to open a Second Front out of Lebanon whileIsrael was battling Hamas. Had the present masters of Gaza been in Damascus,a second front may have been an option,but with the shift to Doha,coordination with Hezbollah has snapped.And yet,despite its refusal to attack Israel at a time when that country has been engaged on its southern border,NATO seeks to ensure for Bashar Assad the same fate meted out to Muammar Gaddafy.In other words,punish those that help you!

Sunday 18 November 2012

Sena chief Balasaheb passes away at 86 (Sunday Guardian)

MAMTA SEN & MADHAV NALAPAT  Mumbai/New Delhi | 17th Nov 2012
In this file photo Bal Thackeray gets ready to enact a scene from a play Janata Raja on Shivaji. PTI
umbai did not switch on its Diwali lights on Saturday evening as news broke that Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray (1926-2012) had passed away at his residence Matoshree at 3.33 p.m. The city wore a deserted look as shops downed their shutters and transport went off the road, even as wailing Shiv Sainiks made their way to Balasaheb's residence in Bandra in suburban Mumbai. 58-year-old Dadar resident and Sena supporter Shubhangi Joshi echoed their sentiments when she said, "He was a principled man and stood up for both Hindutva and Marathis. Now that he is no more, the Marathi manoos is orphaned. There can never be anyone like him ever."
Earlier this week, Balasaheb's supporters had parked themselves outside his home praying for his fast recovery. Temples and shrines from Mumbai to Kolhapur and Satara to Nashik were crowded with Sainiks who made offerings and hosted lavish yagnas for their leader. On Thursday too, the city was tense as police forces and their various units in large numbers were deployed not only outside Matoshree but across sensitive areas fearing law and order problems.
A huge pandal is being constructed at Shivaji Park to keep Balasaheb's body for public viewing on Sunday. Sena spokesperson and Member of Parliament Sanjay Raut said that party workers should go to Shivaji Park from 7 a.m. onwards to pay their tribute to the Sena supremo. He also requested all Sainiks to maintain peace and not lose their calm. The funeral is expected to take place on Sunday afternoon.
Veteran political writer Prakash Bal Joshi who had interviewed Balasaheb in his earlier days says that with his departure, the political scenario in Maharashtra would undergo a major shift. "He ruled the hearts of Maharashtrians and spoke fearlessly about issues close to his heart. He had the guts to take decisions against popular sentiments. He was a keen observer of human nature as a cartoonist as well as a politician. His speeches were like sharp brushstrokes with words."
Bal Thackeray loved warm beer and controversy. Complex, he relished the company of his Muslim friends even while claiming that they were "growing like a cancer" within India. Although his first target on founding the Shiv Sena in 1966 was Mumbai's South Indian community, yet it was in a newspaper run mostly by South Indians — Free Press Journal — that he first came into prominence as a cartoonist. There was both depth as well as acid in his sketches, and the youthful future "Hriday Samrat" of millions in Maharashtra spared no one in his lampoons, especially the pot-bellied, already hugely prosperous politicians of the ruling Congress. However, that did not stop him from getting their patronage, albeit with many veils of secrecy covering such a partnership. Thackeray was at his core a bohemian, disrespectful of authority, and this made him a natural foe of Communists, a political philosophy which he detested. Small wonder that Maharashtra's then Home Minister D.S. Desai saw in him the perfect antidote to the rapid growth of the CPM and CPI trade unions in India's business hub
None will step forward now, or ever did then, to confirm the pact between Bal Thackeray and Congress leaders intent on weakening their Communist and Socialist rivals. Suffice it to say that authorities in Maharashtra looked the other way when Shiv Sena unions began ensuring a flow of workers to their fold, because of their conspicuous success in persuading both businesspersons and officials to agree to their demands in a manner denied to those of the Left. After Desai, it was the turn of Sharad Pawar to be whispered as the hidden patron of the Sena. If so, Pawar was hardly alone. Businesspersons joined hands with those in authority to ensure that the Sena vanquished its rivals, chief among them being Datta Samant of the Socialist Party, who came to grief after shutting down Mumbai's textile mills for more than a year, killing half of them permanently in the process
In 1995, when the Sena-BJP coalition toppled the Congress party to become Maharashtra's rulers, Thackeray could have been the CM. But the bohemian in him refused any such "honour". No less fanatically than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi did Bal Thackeray reject any official post. Of course, his was usually the last word in matters of governance, a fact that he was unabashed about. Thackeray had immense self-confidence, and never bothered to shade his views to suit the exigencies of the hour. Not for him any script other than his own.
Since 1995, the Shiv Sena has remained a potent rival to the Congress Party in Maharashtra, but although his politics remained upbeat, his personal life was marked by tragedy, with both his wife and a son passing away in quick succession. Nephew Raj had his uncle's fire, but it was to the gentle Uddhav, his son, that Thackeray turned to become his successor. This resulted in a walkout by Raj. However, the passing away of the Sena patriarch may unify Uddhav and Raj.
M.V. Kamath, honorary director with Manipal University, who is the only remaining person today who worked with Balasaheb in Free Press Journal, and remained friends with him said, "I was six years his senior and his job then at Free Press was to approve his cartoons for publishing only after showing them to me. His earlier cartoons were laced with desi humour and I used to complain to him to add some sophistication to them. He used to think in Marathi and I used to tell him to think in English."
"He was very quiet and never chatted with the other reporters. He was a disciplinarian and used to come to office on time, do his work diligently, hand me the cartoons by evening and leave. Neither did he ever fight with anyone. Once outside the workplace he used to open up and we used to chat freely. We became very good friends," recalls Kamath.
"I once questioned him what he did when he started the Shiv Sena. So he invited me one day to Parel railway station and picked me up from there in his car only to spend the next four hours visiting the homes of mill workers in the many chawls scattered in and around Parel. He met each and every member of the families and enquired about their problems and just talked. I believe he was greatly influenced by his father and wanted to become a social reformer like him."
Kamath says that Balasaheb Thackeray the politician was a creation of circumstances. "Mumbai in the 1960s was undergoing too many changes and was in chaos. It needed a Bal Thackeray. The circumstances were such that you needed a man like Bal Thackeray to dominate Mumbai."

Netanyahu bolder after Hamas shift to Doha (Sunday Guardian)

By Madhav Nalapat, Sunday, 18 November 2012, Sunday Guardian

A member of Hamas security forces points to an unexploded missile (not seen) after an Israeli air strike on the building of Hamas ministry of interior in Gaza City on Friday. REUTERS
"Bibi Netanyahu" has taken over from where Ariel Sharon left off, by presenting a vision of peace that involves a much lower level of concessions from the (stronger) Israeli side than from a fractured Palestinian state. In 1982, Sharon made sure that Israel would be the only country to suffer from terrorism by Shia factions, in contrast to Wahhabi terror groups, who operate across the globe, including prominently in India. This he achieved by giving military and other assistance to Maronite Christian gangs indulging in acts of violence against their Shia neighbours. This columnist is among the numerous friends of Israel who regards this insertion of the Israeli Defense Forces into the Lebanese civil war as a mistake. Netanyahu has based his policies towards the Palestinians on two postulates, which are that (a) the US will support him in whatever he does because of (b) his support base within the conservative side of US politics, both Democratic and Republican. So long as Arab regimes were of a timbre such as would instantly obey any instruction — sorry, request — from Washington, such an assumption did not create any significant danger to the future security of Israel.
The "Arab Spring" of 2011 has removed much of the basis behind the US assumption that its support for Israel would generate nothing other than verbal opposition from governments in the region surrounding Israel. Both Tunisia and Egypt have seen their autocratic (but very sensitive to NATO concerns) rulers replaced with elected leaders who depend on hewing closely with the public mood to survive. And after years of Sharon and now Netanyahu, Arab reaction to Israel is toxic. Now that Gaza is under attack, and is moreover ruled by an offshoot of the selfsame Muslim Brotherhood that now rules Egypt, it would be a safe bet that the Mubarak-era blockades of Gaza, which took place on request by Israel via the US, will not get repeated. The present punishing bombardment of Gaza is likely to generate pressure on Cairo to open the tap into Gaza and ensure that the Hamas-led regime in that sliver of the Palestinian state not any more be starved of what it needs to fend off Israeli attacks. The nature of guerrilla warfare is such that Israel would face a daunting task were Egypt to refuse to enforce a blockade of Gaza, a fact that would be well known to Hamas commanders.
Most probably, it is the shift of the Hamas external headquarters from Damascus to Doha that has given confidence to Netanyahu that the response of Hamas to Israeli bombing would be muted.
What could have impelled the passionate and telegenic Prime Minister of Israel into making the Sharon-style mistake of killing a top Hamas leader, that too when he was engaged in working out the conditions for a comprehensive ceasefire between Israel and Gaza? Most probably, it is the shift of the Hamas external headquarters from Damascus to Doha that has given confidence to Netanyahu that the response of Hamas to Israeli bombing would be muted. It is no secret that Qatar is close to the US, which itself is the closest ally of Israel. Hence, the Israeli Prime Minister probably assumed that a country, which has handed over its security to the US in a way that Israel never has, could be relied on to ensure through its newfound clout with Hamas (whose no doubt generous host it now is) that the organisation hold back from a full-blooded response to Israel's killing of one of its top commanders, followed by multiple air raids. The difficulty in such an assumption is that any visible effort to rein in Hamas would make the rulers of Qatar vulnerable to a strong reaction from their population, which — as is the entire region — is very negative towards Israel. To expect Qatar to risk its own stability for the sake of Bibi Netanyahu may be an assumption too far for the Israeli PM.