x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

1979 treaty may be in trouble

Egypt's first election results make Israel anxious about the future of the 1979 Egypt-Israeli peace pact, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: what Egypt's liberals should do now, and Syria's opposition.

Israel is anxious about the future of its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt - and for good reason

Israel has been anxiously watching developments in Egypt since January's popular uprising led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's regime, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi noted in an editorial. The transition raised doubts about whether Cairo's new chiefs would honour the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.

That pact, signed by the Egyptian president of the day Anwar El Sadat, and by the then-Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, cost Egypt years of suspension from the Arab League. Arab states saw the signing as an act of betrayal of the Palestinian cause, which many Arabs consider to be the mother of all causes in the Middle East.

The 30-year regime of Mr Mubarak, who is currently standing trial on accusations of ordering police to open fire on unarmed protesters, was "faithful" to Israel and always worked to ensure its border security, the paper said.

It goes without saying, then, that Israel's alarms were ringing as the partial results of Egypt's first free parliamentary elections in decades started trickling in this week.

Egypt's Islamists - both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists - have made a strong showing in these elections so far and are on course to becoming the clear winners when all voting ends in March.

"The Israelis know very well that the one thing that brings all Egyptians together - be they Islamists or liberals - is opposition to Israel, to its odious colonial plans and to its crippling and humiliating demands," the newspaper said.

"For the past decades, Israel has enjoyed a tranquillity it has never dreamed of, as Egyptian rulers decided they wanted to be its trusted border guards, keeping all infiltrators at bay, whether men of the [Palestinian] resistance or African migrants seeking economic asylum."

So it was no surprise to hear the statement this week by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, reminding his people of the need to speed up the building of a "separation barrier" along the Egyptian-Israeli border.

In an uncharacteristically mild tone - as opposed to his usually "arrogant" tone when addressing Middle Eastern leaders - Mr Netanyahu reiterated his country's hope that the forthcoming Egyptian government would honour the peace treaty between the two countries, the newspaper went on.

"Mr Netanyahu is perfectly aware of the fact that the time of Egyptian capitulation … is gone for good and that the Egyptian system now taking shape in the ballot boxes will usher in a new era for the whole region.

"And this era's main motto would be to put an end to Israel's occupation of Arab territories and to recover the Arab people's dignity."

Liberals should try to protect Egypt's future

There is no point in attacking Egypt's Islamists now; venting and politics are two different things, wrote Tariq Al Homayed, editor of the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat.

Rather than attempting to destroy or break the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, liberal political forces and especially the revolutionary youth, should now be focusing on the protection of the civil state and on the future of Egypt.

Egypt's youth have wasted a good deal of time and effort focusing on futile, useless issues. What they must do in this phase is to use the time as best they can to preserve Egypt, since they have already lost their opportunity at the parliamentary election.

Their goal today is to ensure that the rules of the game are clear and fair. This means more political work and fewer protests.

"The only remaining chance for those who want Egypt to remain a secular state with a well-defined future is to move to guarantee a secular constitution that preserves freedoms, justice, multiplicity, the rights of minorities and the civil nature of the state."

As long as the rules of the political game don't provide for a monopoly of power, Egypt can be secure notwithstanding the profile or the background of its rulers.

But this can be achieved only through a modern constitution that speaks to all Egyptians and their future ambitions.



Syrian opposition is still not very attractive

The Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, remains the effective leader of the uprising against his regime, columnist Satea Noureddine argues in the Lebanese daily Assafir. This is because his security and political measures are fuelling the protests, while the opposition campaign lacks credibility.

For the opposition to become a full-fledged member of the Arab Spring they must work harder on their leadership, programmes and behaviour, in a way that enables them to offer sufficient guarantees to be seen as a valid alternative to the regime.

"Lengthy discussions with the opposition leaders abroad or scattered across Turkey give the impression that the regime can be brought down only from within as a result of its own successive mistakes," said the writer.

In fact, judging from their vague positions on issues such as sectarian divisions and foreign interference, opposition figures seem to have no answers to the concerns of Syria's minorities, who are still hesitant to announce their opposition to the regime or join the multitudes in the streets.

The opposition has a long way to go to convince the world that the time is right for a forced change in Syria, one that guarantees the protection of its precarious national unity.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk