The London-based Al Quds al Arabi daily carried an opinion piece by the Chief Editor Abdel-Beri Atwan who wrote that after the dust cleared around the Sharm el Sheikh conference, "one could say that the biggest losers were the people of the Strip themselves, both in the short and the long runs". As for the biggest and uncontested winner, "it was the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak - at least for the time being - followed by the head of the authority in Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas. Five billion dollars were allocated, half of which went to support the authority in Ramallah and the other half to reconstruct the Strip. This step might look like an accomplishment but we should remember that only promises were made for the payment of these sums and were linked to the conditions of achieving political goals and securing certain circumstances on the ground."
Atwan concluded by saying that none of the Arab leaders at the conference "asked Israel to pay for the reconstruction of what it destroyed, but begged it not to re-destroy what will be rebuilt. I had hoped to see one Arab leader asking Mrs Clinton, who demanded that Hamas recognise Israel and the two-state solution, what she will give in return and whether or not this will be imposed on Netanyahu who rejects this solution.
Ali Bin-Hassan al Tawati, a regular columnist for the Saudi Okaz newspaper, wrote that Obama's recent announcement on Iraq troop drawdowns "didn't come as a surprise to political observers who have already noted the degree of caution in Obama's approach to the problems of the Middle East quagmire. In reality, any quick glance at the withdrawal plan shows us that the content is different than the title because the content stipulates that the occupation has to remain in place for at least three more years.
Three more years, he said, are more than enough to prepare the ground for a permanent presence in Iraq through American aerial bases in northern Iraq which is controlled by the Kurds. Three more years are enough to keep Iran under direct military threat during the negotiations with it about its nuclear program and about its relations with Iraq and the other neighbouring countries. "Three more years are enough to ascertain that no forces opposed to Israel will rise in Iraq which might help affect the Palestinian cause. Three more years are enough to ensure that the Iraqi army will remain merely as a lightly armed police force. Lastly, three more years are enough for other developments to happen that might lead President Obama to change his mind about withdrawing the remaining troops close to his last year in power. "
Khaled Saghieh, a regular columnist for Lebanon's Al Akhbar, wrote that the Lebanese are entering, through their politicians and media, into an extremely tense atmosphere which precedes the electoral battle - "a battle which has been described as fateful, important, and a prelude to rebuilding the state. But, in reality, it is neither fateful nor a prelude for rebuilding the state which no one wants to see rise again."
The mobilisation, however, raises many questions, especially regarding the former opposition team. "We have yet to learn what the opposition expects from these elections," Saghieh wrote. "What the Lebanese have heard so far is that the opposition, if it wins the elections, will rebuild the state. Some poetry was added about fighting corruption and corruptors. But isn't it shameful that the opposition is talking about rebuilding the state but without any vision or programme?
"We know that fighting corruption is not a programme for ruling a country. But it can be a model for tyranny. We know that the traditional leaders who are running after what are called the service ministries are present in the opposition and the ruling team. As for Hizbollah, it is acting as if it has no other priority than its weapons."
Muhammad al Hamadi, a regular columnist for the UAE's Al Ittihad newspaper, wrote about the recent US State Department report on human rights. Anyone who looks into the human rights situation in the UAE finds out that there is a genuine interest in this issue "and that there are huge efforts being expended ion various levels to advance the human rights situation in the UAE. These efforts have already helped us achieve huge leaps compared to the situation in the past, for there is freedom of expression for all, there is personal freedom, and there is a feeling of safety and security."
The UAE also has health services for everyone and healthcare, he added. "There are no homeless people here because every person has a home and steady income. The problem of unemployment is not that severe. As for women, they have managed to attain most of their rights and don't suffer from any discrimination at work. As for the US itself, the author concluded, "the extent of international anger and objections aroused by this report was clear for all to see as everyone is now following the principle: 'those with houses made of glass must not pelt others with stones'."
* Digest compiled by www.mideastwire.com