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Evidence pointing in this direction has already accumulated from those countries where succession has already been accomplished. No matter how a new ruler rose to the top, the main thrust of policy seems quite similar.

In Jordan King Abdullah II was crowned as the Hashemite monarch through a last minute “royal coup” carried out by his father King Hussein who, from his deathbed deprived his younger brother Prince Hassan of the throne. Complex maneuvering in the court - with some intervention by top security and intelligence commanders - brought about a successor who admits in public that he was not informed of his father’s decision to make him king. Abdullah has been moving to further liberalize the economy and offer broader political freedoms. One pet project of his calls for the establishment of a free zone for media, where broadcasters and newspapers will not be subject to any form of censorship or government interference. The new king has allowed the traditional tension between Trans-Jordanians and Palestinians to be discussed openly in the press. In fact it was his own political adviser, Adnan Abu Odeh, a Palestinian, who argued in public against political discrimination of the Palestinians and urged full integration of their representatives into the highest political echelons. Such development cannot be explained only as a manifestation of a more open minded approach, it is also a product of the king being in a less formidable position than his father. Abdullah cannot deter the drive by his Palestinian citizens for a new power-sharing formula.

On relations with Israel, Abdullah has proven reluctant to follow in the footsteps of King Hussein who was inclined to demonstrate empathy and friendship, in the face of predictable protests of the opposition. He maintains the close alliance with Israel, but chose to lower the profile of his co-operation with the Jewish State to the point of preventing any visit to Israel by members of the Royal family.

The other Arab country where succession occurred through a coup was the tiny Emirate of Qatar where Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani snatched power from his father by staging a bloodless palace putch and then thwarting an attempt to organize a counter putsch. Unlike King Abdullah, Sheikh Hamad had been preparing himself for the job for years and finally decided to wait no more. His major project is the al-Jazeera television network which is revolutionizing Arab media. This satellite station is engaged in breaking long standing taboos and generating debate on the most sensitive social and political issues, never addressed before in such a manner. Al-Jazeera as an exporter of ideas, free expression and open debate has become the number one rated television all over the region. In addition to that, Qatar moved forward towards holding elections of a new Central Municipal Council, in which six women ran for office. On relations with Israel the Sheikh maintained a steady course of inching towards closer relations, yet cautiously refraining from upgrading of ties and allowing constant criticism in the Doha press against normalization.

The only two countries so far where succession was conducted “by the book” are Morocco and Bahrain. In Morocco King Mohammed V replaced his late father King Hassan II in a smooth transition in spite of consistent rumors that his younger brother Mawlai Rashid was being groomed by some circles of the Allawi dynasty to overtake the older son in the race to the throne. In Bahrain Sheikh Hamad took over when his father Sheikh Khalifa died.

In these cases too, the new ruler opted, within a very short while for a course of committing himself to significantly increase political freedoms at home, specifically allowing the media to assume a more critical stance, promising swift modernization of the economy and reforms of the state bureaucracy. The style in which the ruler conducts himself was purposefully modified into a more relaxed and less distant manner, political rivals were offered pardon, reconciliation or both. Next door neighbors with a long record of active hostility were courted into a new partnership. Morocco moved towards a limited rapprochement with Algeria following numerous years of adversity. Bahrain engaged in ever-growing co-operation with its archenemy Qatar. In Morocco opposition leaders - including the Jewish Communist leader Abraham Serfati – were allowed back from exile and the Minister of the Interior who controlled the security services, Dris Basri was summarily sacked. In Bahrain overtures were made towards the Shi’ite majority whose rebellious leaders were pardoned.

The new ruler in Manama seems eager to establish formal relations with Israel yet he has refrained so far from taking a final decision fearing an outburst at home and criticism from his Saudi neighbors. A similar position was adopted by King Muhammed in Morocco. He maintains the forty year old system of co-operation with Israel inherited from his father but proves reluctant to add to it in any way and generally prefers to distance himself from assuming a role similar to that of King Hassan.

One other country - Algeria - could be counted amongst the Arab states where transition has already been completed. President Bouteflika is the first civilian in the job since Ben Bella’s days, elected as a single candidate in a general election in 1999. Although he represents in many ways the old guard of the F.L.N., his policies correspond to the general trend of the younger generation coming to power. At home, he initiated reconciliation with a leading armed Islamic movement, getting close to putting an end to a bloody civil war. Abroad, his new policies include a series of gestures towards Israel and a public commitment to the Peace Process, a marked departure from the legacy of his predecessors.

Before moving to the countries where succession struggles are still on hold, it is worth mentioning that all the rulers referred to above pursue a clear cut pro-peace and effectively pro-normalization policy towards Israel. The kings of Jordan and Morocco have somewhat restrained the enthusiasm of their fathers but did not change the general course of policy. In Qatar, Bahrain and Algeria there is certainly an improvement of the attitude to peace with Israel. Bahrain will soon establish a trade mission in Tel Aviv, Algeria has established contacts on the security level and Qatar is recently welcoming tourists and investments from Israel. In all, the five Arab countries where transition has been completed remain firmly in the pro-peace camp. One gets a taste of the change that is to happen in other Gulf countries, once the old guard Sheikhs with their deep suspicion towards Israelis make room for the younger princes. Less encumbered by the conservative shackles of their predecessors, equipped with a far better grasp of the modern world, they are taking a more balanced, cooler view of Israel, devoid of the highly emotional approach of the past.

It is already widely understood in the region that, with the departure of Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi, the paramount Emir of the United Arab Emirates, his son and successor intends to begin a process of rapprochement of his own with Israel. In this, he is backed by key players in the ruling families of the different principalities. Thus, it may be that Kuwait will remain the last Gulf principality to refrain from establishing ties with Israel. This is probably due to the relative weakness of the younger members of the Sabah ruling family and the highly conservative characteristics of those in the family who are controlling the government and will apparently continue to do so for quite a while.

Still, it is in other places that the course of succession will determine the fortunes of Israeli-Arab peace.

In Egypt, President Mubarak resists all suggestions to appoint an heir-apparent. In fact, no one can tell for sure who will be next in line. Excluding Mubarak’s older son Gamal, a successful businessman now on the secretariat of the ruling National Democratic Party who may need a few years to build a political machine, there are at least four potential contenders: Chief of the Security Services, Omar Suliman, a powerful intelligence master who does not enjoy public recognition in the country but may be acceptable to the armed forces; Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa a vocal proponent of the Arab nationalist viewpoint, who is now striving to cleanse himself of the image of a neo-Nasserite yet still lacks a power base; Information Minister Safwat al-Sharif, the undeniable Czar of Egypt’s media and communications empires whose closeness to Mubarak might give him an advantage although he is not very likely to win wide support of the political elite; and finally, Defense Minister General Tantawi, who is very careful not to express any taste for politics, but given the tradition of picking the leader from the military, may seem the obvious choice.

The next President of Egypt - whether civilian or not - will be an ally of the business class. He will not have any other choice. Since 1987, far-reaching economic reforms have re-defined the structure of Egyptian politics. The business class has become the predominant sector of society and its consent, wealth and political power are indispensable for any ruler. Yet there are several tasks awaiting Mubarak’s successor: Re-igniting the stalled privatization process, ending total government control over the electronic media empire, etc. - moves that are bound to escalate the rivalry between the incoming elite and the outgoing one. The new ruler can hardly rely on the National Democratic Party for support.

Just like in all other Arab countries, ruling parties are out of fashion and rapidly becoming ineffective in mobilizing public opinion. A new social contract between the ruler and his citizens is probably in the offing - and Egypt will most likely be the first to introduce it. This new “contract” will be based on the ruler expanding political liberties and economic openness while retaining his own immunity through an “unconsummated” democracy. The citizens, for their part will offer their loyalty in return for a steady growth of the GNP and efforts by the government to make sure that gaps within the society do not widen to intolerable proportions. The contract therefore has and will be made with the general citizenship of each country: the upper classes accepting need to finance the basic needs of the lower classes, the lower classes accepting a guarantee against total impoverishment and economic marginalisation in return for their submission to the new order of things. This is an extremely volatile formula that will be difficult to preserve in periods of recession or domestic strife.

Future relations between Egypt and Israel will be perceived by the next President in Cairo as an extension of his policy at home. In recent years direction of policy vis-à-vis Israel was entrusted to a large degree to neo-Nasserites as a part of a trade off: neo-Nasserites grudgingly accepted the economic reforms prescribed by the IMF and backed Mubarak against the fundamentalists and in return were granted some control of foreign policy. They have tilted occasionally a Cold Peace with Israel into a Cold War. However, there are indications that leading members of the business class have now reached the conclusion that this trade off has exhausted itself and they should lobby for a more sober diplomacy regarding Israel. Assuming that Mubarak’s successor will proceed along the lines of the past two decades the major question would be to what extent will there be a change of tone towards Israel e.g. switching to a more cooperative attitude.

Egypt will be seeking assurances that Israel does not plan to compete for hegemony in the region or otherwise undermine Egypt’s aspiration to lead. Some spokesmen for the outgoing elite, foremost amongst them Hassanain Haikal, argue that a basic contradiction with Israel will remain throughout the Peace Process. They depict this as a sort of “conflictual peace” in which the strategic interests of the parties are at odds but they prefer not to resort to arms. Israel may be able to soften the magnitude of the adversity involved but in the final analysis it will be up to the new man in Egypt make up his mind about how acute a conflict he wishes within the peace. He will measure it by watching the balance of power on his domestic front.

In Syria President Asad is doing his utmost to ensure a smooth succession to his son Bashar. The old members of the inner circle of the Damascene Jama-acracy (Gang-cracy) including heads of security, intelligence and the military are gradually sent into retirement paving the way for their replacement by younger people more in tune with Bashar’s outlook. But huge difficulties must be surmounted before the hand over of the reins from father to son is accomplished. Within the Allawite community there is strong resistance to Bashar - partly led by his exiled uncle Rifaat. Old guard Baathi resent the attempt to jump a generation and a few aspirants lie in the dark and may make their move once Asad is no longer around. A good number of connoisseurs of Syria find it hard to believe that Bashar will have an easy ride.

Yet in Syria too, the demise of the ruling party is already well advanced as demonstrated by the cabinet reshuffle of March 2000. Businessmen and professionals were called in by Bashar and his colleagues to take over ministerial portfolios from veteran Baathi apparatchniks. The platform of the new cabinet should give us a clue about Bashar’s intentions for the future: it points to economic reform aimed at attracting foreign investments, encouraging the private sector and restricting bureaucratic clout through an “anti-corruption” campaign. Bashar has already inaugurated limited access to the Internet and cellular telephony and some preliminary measures were taken towards a possible relaxation of media control. Bashar has clearly positioned himself as the ally of the merchant class. However, it does not necessarily follow that if Asad is succeeded by someone else that that would be the case too.

Amongst all of Israel’s neighbors Syria is the one country where the successor will have to make a series of crucial decisions right from the start, mainly on far reaching economic re-structuring. Again, policy towards Israel here too will become subordinated to the domestic front. In Syria, like in Egypt, the impact of peace lies in the framework it provides rather than in the bi-lateral relations with Israel. A policy of economic reorganization in Syria, involving western financing, will dictate a peaceful attitude towards Israel, but not necessarily a friendly one. Bashar Asad is fully aware of the fact that a significant assistance package is apparently a pre-condition for his assuming power. He cannot succeed his father faced with formidable opposition unless his purse is full. The danger is that the business class of Syria at this point is still too weak to play a decisive role in the succession struggle and therefore the traditional combination of bureaucrats, security chiefs and sectarian leaders, may be able to wrest power. So far, these groups are more interested in retaining their privileges under the existing system than risking the loss of benefits through reform. If they get the upper hand - peace with Israel may be of a lesser priority.

In the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat is careful not to nominate a second-in-command. His obvious successors, Abu Jihad and Abu Iyad, were both killed before the Oslo Accords and he is reluctant to bestow upon any other of the “historic leadership” the mantle of heir-apparent. The candidates in the short term are three. Mahmud Abbas, alias Abu Mazen, will be supported by some of the security chiefs mainly from the Gaza strip. The Speaker of the Palestinian Council, Ahmed Qurei, alias Abu Alla, once the top financial advisor to Arafat has become an important political figure and is building a constituency in the West Bank supported by few of the local power brokers. And finally Farouk Kadumi, alias Abu Lutf, the “foreign minister” of the PLO, who remains in Tunis, will enjoy the support of the Fatah in the diaspora and some of the hard liners in the territories. All three will be, at least initially, titular first among equals, dependent on powerful military/intelligence heads. In the longer term some of these chiefs, e.g. Colonels Muhammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub may become contenders on their own.

In both short and longer-term scenarios it may prove difficult for whatever coalition comes into power to maintain a similar grip on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. One has to seriously consider the possibility that, while remaining under the same nominal government, Gaza and the West Bank will in fact be run by different bosses and that even the Hebron-Bethlehem area may come under a different set-up from the one which will be re-instated in the Ramallah-Nablus area.

Amongst the Palestinians there exists already a close coalition of security chiefs and leading business people which will most probably continue into the post-Arafat period. However with Arafat’s departure other forces are bound to make a play, mainly the refugees from the camps who are already beginning to organize to counterbalance the security-business coalition. The process of succession in the Palestinian Authority could prove more complicated and troublesome than in most other places.

Stability of the new regime may take more time to establish and the danger of split authority and an ongoing power struggle remain possible. In each area different people may take over effective control although they will all be partners to the Palestinian Authority, will agree on the identity of Arafat’s successor and will probably take major joint decisions on economic affairs etc. Still they will run their respective fiefdoms pretty much as they like without necessarily following the instructions of the central Palestinian Authority government. In such a case, Israel will face on the ground different Palestinian interlocutors, who will act differently, pursue narrow local interests and therefore the ability to make deals with the Palestinian Authority will be severely restricted by this phenomenon.

In Saudia Arabia, Crown Prince Abdullah is so far assured of succeeding his half-brother King Fahd with probably Prince Sultan as the next in line, but the main issue is when, how and to whose advantage will succession switch to the younger princes in the House of Ibn Saud. Several coalitions of rival princes are quietly emerging in the Saudi court where the Sudairi branch is currently in charge. So far no agreement has apparently been reached between the competing factions on the modalities of future succession. A failure to reach a broad consensus on this crucial issue is bound to heighten tensions in the country. It may also allow involvement of forces from outside the royal family - e.g. the military, the tribes - in the ultimate decisions. As long as the issue of succession to the next generation is not resolved, Saudi policies on every aspect, including Israel, will be short term, extremely cautious and non-committal. Just like in other countries, reforms go hand in hand with rapprochement with Israel.

Succession is also becoming an issue in Iraq, still isolated in many ways but potentially one of the most powerful regional players. It seems that Saddam Hussein is planning to groom his youngest son Qussai, Chief of the Secret Services, to become the next President over protests of his first born Udai. Udai, who is suffering from injuries received during an assassination attempt, generally acquired a reputation of a violent bully (which did not prevent him of course from getting the support of 99.99% of the voters in his bid for a seat in parliament in March 2000). Not only has Qussai to confront an almost certain split of the family and the Takriti clan, which is the nucleus of power in the country, he will also have to tackle some of the army chiefs who will try to benefit from a rift in the upper echelons of the regime.

It goes without saying that neither Qussai or Udai can contemplate real reforms in the Iraqi regime and it is doubtful whether a take over by the military will indeed signal a drastic shift from present policies. Only when Iraq is “out of the box” will its policy towards Israel acquire a real importance. So far only some factions of the exiled opposition have voiced their support of the Peace Process but most observers agree that their chances of gaining power in Baghdad are quite slim.