x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Writing in the Arabic newspaper Al Hayat, the columnist Randa Taqiy Al Din says the visit by the French First Lady to Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon will draw the much-needed attention to a tragedy that is hurting the people on both sides of the border. Other Digest topics: Iran, Israel.

Arabic News Digest

Valerie Trierweiler, the companion of Francois Hollande, the President of France, deserves recognition for her visit on Tuesday to the makeshift Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon – a visit that can draw much-needed attention to a tragedy that is hurting the people on both sides of the border, wrote the columnist Randa Taqiy Al Din in yesterday’s edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

Ms Trierweiler, who was a well-known journalist before becoming the First Lady of France, visited Tell Delhamiya in the Beqaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, where about 3,000 Syrian refugees have settled after fleeing Baba Amr in Homs and other Syrian towns that have been torn apart by the war, the author said.

“Ms Trierweiler walked inside the tents, asked the women about the conditions of their displacement, carried their children in her arms and chatted with their mothers amicably and understandingly,” the writer added. “But despite their suffering, mothers and youngsters at the camp said they would not go back to Syria as long as Bashar Al Assad is in power, because they fear they will be killed just like their spouses and children.”

Ms Trierweiler’s visit is in line with previous efforts by President Hollande to assist Syrian people and their Lebanese hosts, the columnist wrote.

“Mr Hollande was one of the first leaders to call for Al Assad’s departure and for a halt to violence in Syria. He also contributed to setting up a support group and, later, an international conference in Geneva, to help Lebanon face up to the issue of Syrian refugees,” Al Din said.

The attention that Ms Trierweiler’s visit would bring to a critical problem for both Lebanon and Syrian people is expected to change something about the international inaction, the author suggested, as the global community has so far failed to assist Lebanon in its laborious efforts to contain more than one million refugees that took shelter in the country since the start of the Syrian uprising.

“The refugee crisis in Lebanon is, indeed, catastrophic,” the author noted.

Fragile as it is, Lebanon still refuses to set up proper camps for Syrian refugees for political reasons. It has to do with the stability of Lebanon’s sectarian structure and the fact that the country is still home to a non-negligible population of Palestinian refugees that poses specific challenges to the state.

The fact is that, in the absence of stable refugee camps, throngs of displaced Syrians keep rippling into the streets of Beirut, the columnist went on.

“Many of them are children who live on begging around the city, while Lebanese workers complain that Syrian workers are taking their jobs, because they accept lower wages. The tension is high.”

Lebanon’s future is controlled by Iran

John Kerry’s statements from Riyadh this week don’t hold any value in terms of political efficiency, much like other statements made by US officials regarding the crises region, wrote the columnist Abdel Wahab Badrakhan in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

The situation in Lebanon has become an Iranian issue. It will be subject to Tehran’s agenda at the negotiation table with the US where Iran would attempt to entrench its power over the areas it fully or partially dominates.

Iran’s power breakthrough in Lebanon is unprecedented. Hizbollah, its military affiliate, controls every aspect of political life in the country.

Following his meetings in Riyadh on Monday, the US secretary of state stressed that Hizbollah mustn’t be allowed to determine the future of Lebanon.

“It is a beautiful thought indeed, but it is Iran that does the allowing in this issue. It has been giving Hizbollah leeway to wreak havoc to the country’s system and to deliberately sabotage coexistence among its various segments,” the writer noted.

The fact that Mr Kerry brought up the issue of Lebanon’s future from Saudi underlines Saudi-US concerns over the ever-increasing power Iran and Hizbollah wield over the Lebanese state, its army and political scene.

Meanwhile, the damages of the Iran-Hizbollah modus operandi at the political, economic and security levels in Lebanon continue to accumulate.

When will Palestinians realise futility of talks

Earlier this week, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about his idea of peace, which he asked the Palestinians to adopt, said the columnist Amjad Arrar in the Sharjah-based daily Al Khaleej.

He suggested that the Palestinians acknowledge Israel as the state of the Jewish people. He insisted that there should be no Palestinian presence in a strip stretching along the Palestinian-Jordanian borders and added the traditional Israeli request to keep the large settlement blocs in the West Bank and to keep East and West Jerusalem, which he refers to as the eternal capital of Israel, under occupation.

“For Israel, matters are as clear as the original Zionist project. Israel knows what it wants and in which direction the negotiation process in heading. The problem is on the Palestinian side that continues to ignore the changing circumstances and hold on to negotiations as the only available strategic option,” the writer observed.

In 20 years of peace talks, not one breakthrough was registered for the Palestinian side. Killings, settlement activity, attacks and further occupation are on the rise. The situation is made worse with the internal Palestinian divisions.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk