Ian Black writes: No one is taking bets on how solid the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians will prove to be. But the Gaza conflict has highlighted one apparently permanent change in the Middle East – the shrinking influence of Syria, stuck in a bloody and unstoppable war.
If Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president, is now basking in glory as the indispensable mediator between Hamas and Israel, his counterpart in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, looks distinctly like yesterday’s man.
Syrian state media focused intensely on Israel’s onslaught against the Palestinians in Gaza. But Assad’s Arab critics have been doing some bleak calculations: in the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defence 160 Palestinians were killed by Israel. In the same period, Syrian forces killed 817 civilians and injured thousands. Last Monday alone, says the opposition, 150 Syrians died.
Al-Arabiya, the Saudi-owned TV channel, drove home the point about double standards nicely by quoting an Israeli rabbi who publicly urged his army to “learn from the Syrians how to slaughter and crush the enemy.”
Any sense that the Gaza crisis was providing a handy diversion from the global attention to Syria was shortlived. [Continue reading…]