x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Cancellation of gas deal revives Egypt's role

Revocation of the gas deal with Israel puts Egypt back in the driver's seat of regional politics, an Arabic language editorialist writes. Other topics in today's roundup: Libya's militias and international failures in Syria.

Revocation of the gas deal with Israel puts Egypt back at the helm of the Arab ship

Whether the decision by the Egyptian authorities to halt gas exports to Israel was based on political or commercial consideration, it is nonetheless a brave decision that reflects a paramount change in post-revolution Egypt and the relationship with Israel, opined Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

"The decision could be a prelude to the abolishment or at least the modification of the insulting Camp David accords in a way that aligns best with Egypt's interests," he added.

It is true that the export of Egyptian gas to Israel isn't included in the accords' protocols, but it is also true that Israel was able to impose its terms on the former Egyptian government, including the inexplicably low prices for the gas.

Egyptian natural gas was sold to Israel for two-thirds less than global market prices. Ambassador Ibrahim Yussri had filed a lawsuit in the Egyptian Supreme Court to stop gas exports to Israel and won, but Mubarak's government at the time refused to execute the judicial sentence.

What is most farcical about the situation is that the people of Egypt are paying high prices for their gas, which has all but disappeared from markets in the past two weeks creating a crisis.

The gas pipeline between Sinai and Israel was attacked at least 14 times in one year. All governmental efforts to protect it failed, including the intensified arrests campaigns that targeted Bedouin tribal chiefs and a number of young activists.

Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, saw the decision as a serious indication that doesn't bode well for Israel. His president Benjamin Netanyahu made sure not to make any escalatory statements in reaction to the decision.

"The Israelis are trembling in fear from the Egyptian giant that recently came out of the cocoon of humiliation and into the space of dignity," said Atwan. "They are realising that the new government that enjoys the full support of the elected parliament wouldn't acquiesce to Israeli and US commands anymore."

Egypt's shift to its newly found pioneering role would cost the Israeli budget approximately 30 billion dollars annually and would call for an entirely new military strategy.

"Lieberman was right on the money when he said that Egypt is far more dangerous than Iran, It was Egypt that spearheaded all the Arab official wars on Israel and entrenched its international isolation back in the day when Egypt was ruled by national regimes that gave the utmost priority to national security."

Egypt has changed and is expected to change even more as it moves towards reclaiming its regional and international standing. All this thanks to its brave people who, for more than 30 years, resisted all attempts of normalisation with Israel.

Militias are the main challenge for Libya

Remember Libya? Since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi's regime in that oil-rich North African nation, the violence has never really stopped and the status quo still does not carry the promise of a more peaceful future just around the corner, wrote columnist Barakat Shlatweh in yesterday's edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

Clashes between rival militias temporarily abate in one region only to flare up again in another, stoking fears that the country may end up being divided into splinter tribal nations.

These clashes are not just petty skirmishes. Sometimes they involve the use of anti-aircraft missiles and heavy artillery. Regrettably, these acts of violence are performed by the same militias that had fought, united, the battle for a free Libya against the Qaddafi brigades, just several months ago.

"Each of these militias now feel like they had made the greatest contribution to the triumph of the revolution," the writer said. As such, they feel it is their deserved right to stay in control of a range of critical infrastructures in Libya, especially in Tripoli.

The presence - and weapons - of these militias is today the most pressing challenge for the National Transitional Council government. Absorbing these armed groups in a national army is the only viable solution. Yet, so far, all NTC attempts to achieve that have failed.


Flaws in international cooperation hurt Syria

With every new initiative, the crisis in Syria escalates rather than de-escalates, said Tayyib Tizini in an opinion article published in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad.

As this happens time and again, the process has turned into a bloody farce, and plans designed to stop the bloodshed have popped up in succession.

"But what is curious and provoking is that the more military strikes mount, the more people appear on the television to stress that 'the global conspiracy' against the 'rejectionist' forces in Syria is coming to its end," the Syrian thinker wondered.

What matters in such a situation is the role of the international community. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued by the United Nations to help maintain national and international security, and rules were laid down to achieve justice and equality for all. But one vetoer can "mess up" the whole process, by blocking the role of the majority, which would usually be closer to balance and justice, he said.

The attitude of the international body vis-a-vis what is unfolding in Syria, proves its inability to devise a new pattern of moral, legal, and political sovereignty able to face up to those who are hell bent on shedding the blood of the Syrian people," the writer concluded.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk