x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Abbas gains nothing by threatening to dissolve PA

When Mahmoud Abbas said he might hand over the keys of the PA to Israel, he didn't fool or impress anyone, an Arabic editorial says. Other topics: killings in Yemen and Hizbollah's future.

Mahmoud Abbas's threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority have so far backfired

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has sparked a largely gratuitous debate after he threatened, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, to hand over "the keys" of the Palestinian Authority to Israel, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi observed in an editorial yesterday.

Mr Abbas issued the warning to pressure Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is busy with an election campaign, to resume peace negotiations, which some Palestinians still hope will ultimately lead to the establishment of an independent state.

"If there is no progress even after the election, I will take the phone and call Mr Netanyahu," Mr Abbas told Haaretz in late December. "I'll tell him, 'My dear friend Mr Netanyahu, I am inviting you to the Muqataa [the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah]. Sit in the chair here instead of me, take the keys and you will be responsible for the Palestinian Authority.'"

According to Al Quds Al Arabi, Mr Abbas is trying to wiggle out of a bottleneck that is the result of a stifling, Israel-imposed financial crisis, combined with a stalemate in the peace process.

"We fully understand that Mr Abbas wants to send a strong word of warning to the Israelis, in which he reaffirms his rejection of continuing settlement building and the Judaisation of Jerusalem, but this warning has backfired," the paper said.

Mr Abbas's declarations were not only derided by the Israeli side, they were also heavily criticised at home.

Mousa Abu Marzook, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, the ruling Palestinian faction in the Gaza Strip, demanded that Mr Abbas hand over the Palestinian Authority to Hamas if he could no longer handle it.

President Abbas's original mistake, Al Quds observed, is that he agreed to lead the PA in the first place. He knew its sovereignty was "deficient", as Israel was rolling out a fierce settlement policy which has continued for more than eight years.

Though belatedly dissolving the PA, "in light of ever-expanding settlements and a collapse of talks, is legitimate ... it must be carried out with a clear backup plan in the pipeline, like re-embracing the resistance … to increase the costs of occupation for Israelis", the paper said.

It would have been better if Mr Abbas had threatened to dissolve the PA in response to Israel's assaults on Gaza in the winter of 2008 or last year, the paper observed.

Instead, Mr Abbas has elected to wave this pressure card to coax Mr Netanyahu back into "absurd talks that brought Palestinians absolutely nothing, except injury and humiliation".

In any case, before taking a decision on dissolving the PA or going back to talks, Mr Abbas must sound out the Palestinian people, the paper said in conclusion.

Yemen assassinations must be dealt with

Yemen has recently seen an increase in the number of assassinations of military and police officials, and this runs the risk of triggering a whirlwind of violence in the country, noted the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej in an editorial yesterday.

Many Yemeni officials have been assassinated over the past few weeks. Last week, every day saw the assassination of at least one official of the army, police or intelligence in Sanaa, Hadramawt or several other areas, the newspaper said.

This indicates that the fomenters of unrest in Yemen have stepped up their activities, in an attempt to abort the deal between Yemen's political forces, brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council last year to get the country out of crisis.

To be sure, there are people in Yemen who benefit from the continuing turbulence, as it gives them a favourable environment to the bleed the country dry. By so doing, they seek to prove that Yemen under the old regime was better than the current situation.

Clearly, such illegal acts target above all Yemen's national unity, and seek to hinder Yemenis' endeavours to make their future via the National Dialogue Conference slated for next month.

The elected president, Abdo Rabo Mansour Hadi, must settle the crisis of assassinations before it becomes intractable, and shield the political process from plotters trying to undermine it, the newspaper concluded.

Will Hizbollah let down the Assad regime?

The downfall of the Assad regime in Syria would have an especially detrimental effect on Hizbollah, Imad Eddine Adeeb argued in the London-based paper Asharq Al Awsat yesterday.

The Syrian regime played a major part in founding, training, arming and funding Hizbollah, the writer noted. And while Hizbollah has been religiously affiliated to Tehran, Damascus is its political and security sponsor.

"I met with [Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah] in 2004. He told me that every weapon and piece of ammunition came, with a serial number, across the border from Iran and through Syria, which receives and delivers those weapons," the writer noted.

The fall of the Assad regime threatens to disintegrate the triangle of the Assad family, Hizbollah and Iran. Hence the pertinence of the following questions:

What would Hizbollah's stance be towards the new Syria? What would be its political orientation in the Lebanese political landscape? What would be the source of logistic support for Hizbollah forces should a war with Israel erupt? How true are the reports about moving nuclear weapons from the regime to Hizbollah?

Iran and Hizbollah are too pragmatic to keep betting on a losing horse. The coming months might see a dramatic shift in Hizbollah's support, the writer said.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk