x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Abbas sacrifices cause over settlement issue

Mr Abbas committed a mistake when he reduced all Palestinian demands to extending the settlement freeze.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, deserves the title of world's worst negotiator, says Abdulrahman al Rashed in an article for the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat. Mr Abbas committed a mistake when he reduced all Palestinian demands to extending the settlement freeze, he asserts. In fact, Mr Abbas's insistence on the issue did a great service to both the Israeli extremists and a Hamas that seeks to sabotage any process.

In doing so, he sacrificed rightful claims to the liberation of occupied territories, refugee right of return, Jerusalem as a capital, sovereignty and an independent state all for the sake of halting settlements. Abu Mazen can rest now as the negotiations will stop and settlement building will continue. He will surely resume negotiations a year from now when the Israelis will have built thousands of houses and the US president, Barack Obama, is preoccupied with elections.

Settlers celebrated the decision, thanked Mr Abbas for his high moral character and went back to erecting scaffolds and mixing cement. All the while, Palestinians have to deal with yet more disappointment. Mr Abbas put himself in a difficult position. He wasted Mr Obama's time and missed out on the US compromise card, which he could have made use of. What was the value of such an enterprise? It undermined real issues and transformed illegal settlement into a pivotal focus.

Lebanese tango is missing main dancers

Sedition is much like tango; it takes two and at present, there aren't two "dancers" to perform it in Lebanon, particularly as the prime minister, Saad Hariri, has condemned sedition, asking us to focus on restraint and national unity instead. Nonetheless, the absence of players does not pre-empt internal confrontation; Lebanon is overcome with special international tribunal fever, says Rajeh al Khouri in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

A few weeks ago, the international tribunal prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, was careful to appease escalating tensions surrounding the tribunal. He explained that the investigation had not taken false witness testimonies into account. This excludes the possibility of using the issue as a platform to undermine the tribunal. Mr Bellemare also said that he has yet to draft the much-debated indictment that is expected soon. His speech came as an indirect response to press reports claiming Hizbollah is likely to be indicted in former PM Hariri's assassination. In spite of repeated affirmations that the tribunal's mission would go on notwithstanding demands to the contrary, rumours and accusations still hold Lebanon hostage.

The country's various factions would be better advised to deter Israeli attempts to benefit from the current internal conflicts and spark a war in its effort to distract attention from the negotiations crisis with the Palestinians.

Khartoum must show compromise for unity

Khartoum seems to have suddenly awoken from a deep sleep to discover that Sudan's unity is threatened by the impending referendum on the South's secession, comments Abdullah Obeid Hassan in the Emirati daily Al Ittihad.

During Ramadan, the country was inundated with a nation-wide, last minute media campaign calling for unity and beseeching "southern brothers" not to respond to global imperialist conspiracies. The maneouvre was essentially orchestrated by northerners. It proves that influential figures in Khartoum have yet to comprehend that the catastrophe awaiting Sudan this coming January is of their own doing and an outcome of their policies and tactics. These have cost Sudan a historic opportunity to restore trust between north and south. Khartoum's regime faltered on honest efforts to implement the south's Nifasha protocol. It failed to development democracy and civil liberties in Sudan.

If Khartoum's regime is sincere in preventing the secession of the South it must relinquish some of its ambitions and gather all factions - opposition and proponents alike - in a national constitutional conference to accede to a federal democratic country based on equal rights and obligations. The separation of the South and the division of Sudan would be a catastrophe for the entire region of east Africa which already suffers from civil wars and famine.

Al Qa'eda morphs into armed political group

In view of the serious events that have rattled Yemen of late, it is important to bring attention to the fact that al Qa'eda is in the process of evolving from violent invisible groups into an armed political movement that has entrenched itself and forged alliances with other powers, says Tareq Masarwa in the Jordanian daily Al Rai. Such a transformation recently occurred in Somalia and Yemen. It takes on a slightly different shape in the African Sahara covering Algeria, Niger, Mauritania and Mali in its effort to counter French interests in that region.

In Afghanistan alone, al Qa'eda was an armed political organisation. It found in the Taliban government an ideal ally and headquarter. Following Bush's military folly, the organisation expanded its operations into Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa as dormant cells. It is most alarming that al Qa'eda presently controls the bigger part of Somalia and occupies cities in Yemen. The Arab League must heed the danger of such expansion that threatens to hold the entire region hostage. Yemen especially requires a larger scale of assistance.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem