Al 3ishq Al Mamnoo3: Mahmoud and Khaled

A series of secret rendezvous… A rumored reunion… A raging “partner” threatening revenge… And then finally, the moment all had been waiting for… Reconciliation and retribution…

While the above could be a perfect description of the recent finale of the popular Turkish soap opera, Al-3ishq Al-Mamnoo3 (Forbidden Love), dubbed in Arabic on the Saudi-owned satellite channel, MBC 4, there was yet another finale that came to a dramatic end, or so we hope, on the same day that the star-crossed lovers of Al-3ishq Al-Mamnoo3, Samar and Muhannad, met their doomed fate…

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, finally signed a reconciliation pact after 4 years of estrangement. The agreement, signed in Cairo, promises a national unity government and an end to “the black page of division”. The agreement provides for a caretaker government before Palestinian-wide elections are to be held one year from the signing. With only a minor glitch, the important point over whether or not Meshaal should sit on the podium with Abbas when they make the announcement, the agreement was signed without a hitch… Phew!

And to think all it took was a signature, massive protests and upheavals around the region, a defunct “peace process”, embarrassing revelations in the form of the Palestine Papers, a siege, a blockade, and an exhausted and asphyxiated populace sick and tired of their leaders meandering and empty rhetoric. Oh yeah, and the overthrow of one party’s patron in a popular uprising, while the other party’s guy is currently busy quelling and delaying his own ousting…

But wait… There is yet a twist… As any good soap opera would have…

While thousands of Palestinians celebrated jubilantly across the Palestinian Territories and refugee camps of Lebanon, another character in this drama shouted expletives and threw a tantrum condemning the reconciliation. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the accord “a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism”. The Israelis, who have acted as co-overlord of the Abbas regime alongside the now defunct Mubarak regime, have been busy lobbying the EU and US to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas joins any new government. They have also taken some self-initiative in their smear campaign and have held up an US$89 million cash transfer to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The subtle fact that this cash is in fact the PA’s cash and not Israel’s is of no consequence, as they only collect tax from the Palestinians and then re-distribute it to the PA – another wonderful souvenir from the Oslo Accords.

What really has Israel’s panties in a twist is the fact that their role is slowly becoming negligible in the wider Middle Eastern socio-political sphere. The recent and continuing Arab upheavals have been arguably a bigger worry to the Israelis than to the local dictators and despots who inspired them. As the cadence and tone of the Arab street, specifically the Cairene street, starts to take on a pan-Arab and pro-Palestinian rhythm, the Israeli government is slowly losing its regional grip. Even their American sponsors have been decidedly ambiguous and external to the recent agreement, aside from the smattering of congressmen pushing for the cutting of US aid to the PA. Furthermore, the Israeli strategy in the region of divide and conquer will only continue to fray as upcoming events, rumored and otherwise, slowly take shape – i.e. the opening of Rafah and the possible unilateral declaration of a Palestinian statehood in September at the UN.

With the Great Egyptian Comeback on the horizon and the new regional paradigm taking shape, Israel is going to have to start getting used to this once ‘3ishq Mamnoo3’ (Forbidden Love).

Lets hope Mahmoud and Khaled do better than their Turkish counterparts, Samar and Muhannad, did.

– Change in a Box

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