The "terrifying" figures of the new 2009 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report on human development in the Arab world have brought back a debate over the question of reform that many Arab governments thought to have definitively smothered, wrote Bourhan Ghayloun, head of the Contemporary Oriental Studies Centre at the Sorbonne University in Paris, in the opinion section of the Emirati daily Al Ittihad.
"Some Arab states, in an attempt to alleviate US pressure, have undertaken façade reforms in their political structures, by amending certain laws and creating new institutions which, claiming to broaden political representation, are simply additional platforms for cronyism." In view of the international paranoia about terrorism, which translates into unconditional backing for existing governments, some Arab governments have actually managed to shift over the years from "authoritarian" to "neo-Caesarian" regimes. "Caesarianism is, by definition, superior to human considerations. It is not governed by reason, politics, ethics or even interests. It is based on some intrinsic genius whose nature only insiders may perceive, and only future history shall uncover." It was not much of a surprise then that the new UNDP report was even more critical of the state of Arab politics and societies than previous ones.
"The wait has been long for a Lebanese government but positive information has been leaked to the effect that a cabinet is soon to see the light, after the March 14 and March 8 blocs - representing the majority and the opposition respectively - reached a compromise," reported the leading article of the Qatari daily Al Raya.
A month after the victory of the March 14 Alliance in the parliamentary elections and the designation of its leader, Saad al Hariri, to form a cabinet, the opposition Hizbollah group is now confirming "positive progress" that leaves only a few days before a "consensus" government is finally formed.
Set to be representative of all active parties in the Lebanese political sphere, this prospective "national unity government" is hoped to put an end to divisions and dissipate differences among all the various Lebanese groups. This new "consensus formula" shall bring a crucial novelty for the Lebanese people, for the president, Gen Michel Suleiman, will start acting as a "safety valve" and a "stability factor" as he will be entrusted with five portfolios to assign as he deems fit. "The Lebanese people, and all Arabs with them, are anxious to see a strong Lebanese government bolstered by all-inclusive representation."
If six months after the US President Barack Obama took office, the US administration has not yet drawn up a clear-cut strategy to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the European Union has kept its foreign policy for the Middle East just as "hazy", without a single EU capital having tried to clarify its stance on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, commented the Palestinian daily Al Quds in its leader.
Some time ago, Britain issued a statement, which was later denied by Israeli authorities, to the effect that London will terminate four licences to export British weapons to Israel. Such was an instance of the "fragmented" European response to the Gaza invasion. "The European responsibility towards peace in the region has always been conditioned by the role of the US. Europe has never taken the lead and has always preferred to back US policies financially, away from proactive, overarching political mobilisation." Except for not yet efficient pressure on Israel to freeze settlements in the West Bank, the US has not done much under Mr Obama to solve the tangle of issues at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli struggle, which automatically means that the EU has done even less.
What further concessions is the US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, expecting the Arabs to make under the guise of "mutual concessions" or "tough choices"? questioned the UAE-based daily Al Khaleej in its editorial.
"This monotonously lethal ballad, intoned relentlessly by every US envoy, is meant for the Arabs to enjoy and hum along, while the Zionist entity is sealing off its ears and getting on with its insidious projects." New US envoys come and go with every US administration, and every time around they manage to get nothing out of the Israelis expect a series of "No's," while the Arabs are expected to keep saying "Yes" lest they should be accused of ill will and adversity to peace.
After demands to fully normalise relations with Israel and open air space and land borders to it, now it seems that the Arab world is being asked to let Jerusalem go, relinquish the right of millions of Palestinians to return to their homeland and recognise Israel as a Jewish state, sanctioning thus the eviction of the remaining Palestinians on the land occupied in 1948. "The string of concessions is spinning around the necks of the Arabs and is about to chop their heads off."
* Digest compiled by Achraf A El Bahi email@example.com