x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Advice for Hamas: 'Don't recognise Israel'

How Hamas should handle the recognition-of-Israel question, the situation in Syria, and what's happening in Yemen are the subjects for Arabic-language opinion writers excerpted here today.

Pressure is mounting these days against Hamas recognising Israel as a prerequisite for a full-fledged national Palestinian reconciliation, noted the pan-Arab Al Quds al Arabi newspaper in its editorial.

The US president, Barack Obama, backed Israel's stance against a Palestinian reconciliation when he said, in a speech this week at the annual conference of the pro-Israeli lobby Aipac, that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a group that denies its right to exist, referring to Hamas.

The same message came from the Turkish president Abdullah Gul who revealed in an interview with the US-based Wall Street Journal that in 2006 he had advised Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas political chief, that his movement must be "rational" about the recognition of Israel.

"We don't know much about Hamas's position regarding this mounting pressure, or its ability to handle it," the newspaper said. "But we do know that the 'Israeli recognition chip' is the most essential item in Hamas's charter and it must not be traded for a low price.

"This may well be a carefully laid trap to empty Hamas' ideology from its backbone, from the edge that won it all the respect of the Palestinian people, which culminated in the Hamas victory in the legislative elections," the newspaper said.

Yemen's Saleh loses as GCC suspends bid

That Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh would do everything to stall the initiative proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to end the long-standing stalemate in his country should come as no surprise, commented Qassim Hussein, a columnist with the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat.

"It was clear from the outset that President Saleh would cling to power to the very last day and, indeed, to the very last man in his tribe, and to the very last political manoeuvre conceivable. He really wants to stay until the end of his term in the name of 'democratic and constitutional legitimacy'; never mind that the majority of Yemenis demonstrating in public squares have been yelling 'Leave!' for a long time," the columnist wrote.

The GCC proposal was meant to provide Mr Saleh and his relatives with an exit plan while guaranteeing new elections and a new constitution for the opposition. Yet Mr Saleh still plays mercurial games. After he repeatedly refused to sign at the eleventh hour, the GCC has suspended the initiative and the president simply has nowhere to go.

"Until now, the Yemeni people have conceded 180 martyrs for the sake of change … and have set a wonderful example of peaceful protest and patience. And Saleh has not yet succeeded in egging them on into war and bloodshed, although they own as many as 50 million firearms."

Even Assad's friends are alarmed

Some of the close regional allies of the Syrian president Bashar al Assad have finally started to sense the gravity of what is unfolding in Syria today, according to Tariq al Homayed, the editor of the London-based Asharq al Awsat newspaper.

The Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, for example, wrote in his weekly column in the Lebanesenewspaper Al Anbaa: "I call on President Bashar al Assad, whom I know has a lot of courage, to take quick action to ensure a radical change in the approach to the current situation in Syria and the challenges the country is facing, a new approach that embraces legitimate demands and heads off the prospect of fragmentation and a continuous haemorrhage."

Mr Jumblatt was not the only one to make a recommendation of this nature - in writing - on Monday. Talal Salman, the editor of the Beirut-based Assafir newspaper, published an article entitled Where is President Assad and Why Doesn't He Involve the Syrians in Reform?

"Was it sheer coincidence that Syria's buddies in Lebanon wrote two articles warning the Syrian president on the same day? We don't know," Mr al Homayed said. What is certain, though, is that the Syrian president's allies' friend-to-friend advice is too little too late, now that events are spiralling out of the Syrian state's control, in favour of the anti-government protesters.

Libyans need more than just US charity

The policy of the United States regarding the Libyan uprising is a little strange, wrote Mazen Hammad, a columnist with the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

The US, being the spearhead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), cannot afford to temporise while Libyan civilians are paying a high price.

The US defence department recently announced that it has shipped 120,000 meals to the rebels and that it is working to send more relief in the form of "non-lethal equipment" such as military fatigues, tents, bulletproof jackets, and sandbags.

"Let's consider this perplexing and ill-advised attitude for a second, especially the 'non-lethal equipment' part. The Libyan regime's forces use everything they can lay a hand on to kill the rebels and butcher civilians, while the US is hoping that the Libyan armed opposition will be fighting back with meals and sandbags? Is that the idea?"

All forms of relief are important, but there are priorities. "A key priority is to provide the rebels with weapons and equipment to face up to the Libyan regime forces, just as much as it is a priority that Col Qaddafi's bases be bombed by Nato fighter jets."

No one wants the US to deploy troops in Libya, but it is not enough to act like a charity.


* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi