x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Arab spring gives way to European summer

Columnists and editorial-writers in the Arabic-language press express themselves on subjects including Barack Obama's Middle East policy, protests in Spain, and more.

"Will the disgruntled crowds in Spain spark a youth revolution and turn the Puerta del Sol in Madrid into something like Tahrir Square in Cairo? Will the Arab spring give way to a hot European summer starting from Spain?"

Columnist Mohammed Obeid asked those questions in the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej.

The questions are open to many interpretations, he said, which lead to many assumptions. But for now, the scene amounts to a sort of civil disobedience similar to what happened in Egypt.

Spanish youth defied official orders banning demonstrations on the eve of elections. At the heart of Madrid, protesters have called for radical changes.

"Demonstrators need only to use the motto 'the people want to overthrow the regime', for their protests to turn into an overall revolution. If this happens, it will soon creep into other European countries. This means the old continent is no less dynamic that its southern neighbours."

Angry Spaniards are calling for a "Spanish revolution" and comprehensive political reforms. This makes sense, as the Spanish government has failed to meet the needs of young people, who have one of Europe's highest jobless rates, up to 21.3 per cent.

The situation is similar to that in Egypt. Protesters against corruption and unemployment named their movement "May 15" to mark the day it started. They also use Facebook to mobilise their peers to take to the street.

Can Hamas be cleverly pragmatic with Fatah?

Khaled Mashaal, the head of the political bureau of Hamas, showed a pragmatic attitude when the popular uprising in Syria created conditions for a Palestinian reconciliation agreement.

The urgent question now, said Tareq Alhomayed in an article for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat, is will Mr Mashaal continue to be cleverly pragmatic?

The geopolitical context is conducive for Mr Mashaal to make a political decision to strengthen the position of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in any future negotiations with the Israelis.

He needs to respond to the Turkish calls for recognising the state of Israel by according to Mahmoud Abbas the right to represent all Palestinians and negotiate with the Israelis accordingly.

Moreover, he should not put conditions on the PA, except for protecting such basic rights as East Jerusalem.

Mr Mashaal should align Hamas with Mr Abbas with the aim of establishing the independent Palestinian state. That way, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, could not claim that there is no unified Palestinian party with which to talk. He will no longer be able to mislead world public opinion, or mobilise it against Hamas and the PA.

It is a good time for Mr Mashaal to engage with the Palestinian Authority to serve the supreme goal of achieving peace and establish a state.

What Netanyahu fails to understand

Anticipating September's UN general assembly, which is likely to recommend recognition of an independent Palestinian state within the borders of 1967, including East Jerusalem, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is again putting a spoke in the wheel, observed columnist Saleh al Qallab in an opinion piece for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda.

Mr Netanyahu put many conditions on continuing with the peace process, such as controlling settlement blocs in the West Bank, requiring recognition of Israel as a state of Jewish people, denying the rights of Palestinian refugees to return, and planning to deploy Israeli troops along the Jordan valley in the long term.

Having taken such an intransigent attitude, Mr Netanyahu is less likely to engage in a positive peace process. He continues to enforce extreme right-wing policies. This is also meant to send a clear message to the US, which is inclined to support a two-state solution based on 1967 borders. Mr Netanyahu wants to stress that Israel is not ready to waive its claims over settlements wherever they are and most importantly over East Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict overlooks the political and strategic changes in the region. He may also fail to understand that his strongest ally, the US, can change stance according to its interests.

Obama's shameful withdrawal on borders

"We didn't expect that the US president's resolve to withstand Israel's Netanyahu-led campaign against him would collapse in such a record time," observed the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi daily in its editorial.

Following President Barack Obama's statements about the borders of an independent Palestinian state, the cave-in not only reveals the might of the Israeli lobby in Washington, but also emphasises the frailty of the US president and his lack of immunity to Israeli pressure.

Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Mr Obama retracted what many had called the most impressive part of his historic Middle East address last Thursday, the one about the 1967 Palestinian borders.

"We fully realise that Mr Obama was talking at a Jewish conference and we are aware that he needs the votes and the power of his audience as he prepares to embark on a presidential [re-election] campaign but we did not expect the president of the most powerful nation in the world to go back so swiftly on stances he had taken willingly."

By withdrawing his promise and implying that he would veto any Palestinian effort to extract international recognition of an independent state, Mr Obama appointed himself a defender of Israeli war crimes, noted the daily.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi