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No 'Palestine' in Netanyahu's mind

According to Hafez al Barghouthi in the Emirati newspaper al Bayan, the Kadima Party leader, Tzipi Livni, denied that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has ever agreed to the two-state solution.

According to Hafez al Barghouthi in the Emirati newspaper al Bayan, the Kadima Party leader, Tzipi Livni, denied that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has ever agreed to the two-state solution. Ms Livni said something to the effect that "Mr Netanyahu knew what the world wanted for him to say, so he said it; he does not believe in it, he is against the establishment of a Palestinian state, even if it is de-weaponised."

Livni's statements contradict those who may consider that Netanyahu's sheer utterance of the phrase "Palestinian state" is a move closer towards the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. In fact, the US administration and Europe are about to slip into "the Israeli trap", as both sides have started pressuring the Palestinians into announcing a readiness to resume negotiations without preset goals, brushing aside the range of Israel's preconditions: Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state, with Jerusalem as its unconditional capital, while the refugees issue must be dealt with away from Israel, "as if it had originally been caused by someone else", Mr Barghouthi wrote. "Those privy to the essence of the religious, nationalistic ideology of the parties in Netanyahu's cabinet would know that they are all categorically hostile to a Palestinian state."

In a comment piece in the London-based daily Asharq al Awsat, Bilal al Hassan wrote that the inter-Palestinian dialogue currently held in Cairo under Egyptian supervision has become quite a perplexing matter. Three defeatist views try to account for this situation but must be reversed. First, there is the assertion that the Palestinian divisions actually stem from a wider rift between the Arab world and Iran; the former, represented by Fatah, being in favour of negotiations with Israel, and the latter, embodied by Hamas, championing resistance.

But, within Fatah itself there are pro-resistance groups, the author argued. Likewise, though Hamas firmly upholds resistance, it does not indiscriminately dismiss diplomatic solutions and maintains strong alliances with major Arab states. Second, there is the argument that Arab and international solidarity with the Palestinian cause is losing momentum as the internal strife between the Palestinian factions is turning violent. And third, there is the claim that future generations of Arabs will tire of the Palestinian cause and start prioritising economic development in their own countries. Though partially accurate, these claims should be countered by Arabs and Palestinians, the writer suggested.

Over the last two years, Arab Islamist parties have lost significant ground in Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait and Lebanon, but this is no indication of the structural deterioration of political Islam, commented Khaled al Hroub in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

"Islamist political movements will always be part of the Arab political scene, but their size and momentum will probably shrink in proportion to their shortage of concrete programmes to carry their promises through," he said. The phenomenal surge of Islamist parties over the last few decades can be ascribed to three major factors: the exploitation of religious mottos cherished by the masses, the failure of other ideologies to capitalise on the emergence of the "independent modern state" and the constant popular resentment of the West for its passivity towards the Palestinian cause.

But this much can be learnt from the contemporary experience of political Islam: it has good chances of generating younger, moderate leaders who, aware of past fiascos, will work to bridge the gap between theory and reality; its "fundamentalist" forms are growing just as much as they are disappearing but these movements can no longer claim that they never had "the right opportunity".

Israel's deep discontent over the meeting of the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, with a Hizbollah parliamentarian, Nawaf al Mousawi, in Lebanon last Friday did not come as a surprise, commented Mazzen Hammad in the Qatari daily Al Watan. Even if Hizbollah has always championed resistance in defending Lebanon against Israel's attacks to make up for a quasi-absent Lebanese national army, the party has nonetheless reacted positively to western initiatives to turn a new page in diplomatic relations.

"Mr Kouchner was right when, responding to criticism, he said that Hizbollah is part of Lebanon's political formation, and it is natural to meet with the party's MPs," the writer said. Moreover, the mature stance of the opposition, led by Hizbollah, following their loss in the June parliamentary elections, did not only encourage western countries to open dialogue with the opposition but it also reinforced the principles of active, multiparty democracy in Lebanon.

"Now, in view of this European openness to Hizbollah, the US must cancel the Israeli 'veto', and start a dialogue with the party," the writer concluded. * Digest compiled by Achraf A el Bahi aelbahi@thenational.ae

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