x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Changing Israel's calculus

War may prove the final solution for a long-standing power gap in the Middle East, one Arabic language columnist warns in today's opinion roundup. Other topics: Israel's power-play and a strange Egyptian 'warning'.

War may prove to be the final solution for a long-standing power gap in the Middle East

A follow up of the Israeli media in recent days reveals a state of gripping terror at the popular level, coupled with palpable confusion at the decision-making level, said Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi.

Developments close to its doorstep have contributed to creating a sense of dread in the Jewish state, the writer argued. The accelerating change process in Egypt following the collapse of the Mubarak regime, the faithful friend of Tel Aviv, added to the mystery shrouding the Syrian front, especially since most pundits seem to agree that the armed confrontation would drag for months, if not years. In Lebanon, too, stability is shaky and the situation threatens to explode at any given moment.

"Israeli threats to target Iranian nuclear plants have been waning noticeably. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who filled the air with his vociferous statements in past months, is looking for a way to retract his overconfident ambitions in this regard," said the writer.

Any Israeli aggression against Iran is inconceivable without explicit US backing. However, just recently, the US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen Martin Dempsey, shocked Israelis when he stated that his country doesn't intend to take part in any Israeli attack on Iran "at the moment".

This coincided with reports of an assurance from President Barack Obama, addressed to Iran, confirming that the US wouldn't be participating in any attack and requesting that Tehran refrain from hitting any of its military bases in the Middle East, the writer said.

"President Obama doesn't want to be implicated in any new wars. Despite pressure from his Turkish and Arab allies, he is hesitant to interfere militarily in Syria. A reading of the recent interview that aired earlier this week with the secretary general of Hizbollah [Hassan Nasrallah] would be useful in justifying Washington's reticence as well as Israel's fear," he added.

In fact, Mr Nasrallah confirmed that the Iranian leadership has taken the decision to attack all US military bases in the Gulf region should any of its nuclear plants come under Israeli fire - based on the assumption that Israel couldn't take such a step without prior US approval.

The Iranians are surely aware of the sheer volume of Israel's military supremacy as well as the US destruction power, but they aren't intimidated. In fact, their powerful ally in the region, Mr Nasrallah, clearly said that Iran would be capable of absorbing the initial attack and retaliate with the same level of force.

"It is nice to see Israel panicking and Washington confused for once," commented the writer. Both nations realise that their domination of the Middle East region is dwindling as a result of the ascent of great strategic powers that could stand up to them.

Israel uses electricity to twist the PA's arm

It was not a coincidence when Israel started threatening to stop suppling power to Al Quds Electricity Company (QEC), thus effectively pulling the plug on the West Bank, at just about the same time the Palestinian Authority (PA) was making a move to get recognition of statehood from the United Nations, the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds stated in its lead editorial yesterday.

Israel's renewed threats to keep Palestinians in the dark, under the pretext that QEC is defaulting on its payments, are "politically motivated", the paper argued. Uzi Landau, the Israeli minister for national infrastructure, has recently made that clear on Israeli television.

"Mr Landau is trying to blackmail the PA over some matters of principle, like the salaries of Palestinian prisoners," the newspaper said. "He is basically trying to punish the prisoners twice: first, years of confinement in Israeli prisons, and now cutting the meagre financial aid that keeps them alive."

Indeed, electricity supplies are being used "as a pressure tool to force political concessions from the Palestinian side" at a time when the PA is going through "a stifling financial crisis", the newspaper said.

In an editorial last month, Al Quds said the size of the company's debt is such that it might be impossible to settle without the joint intervention of the PA, UN agencies and generous Arab nations.

Forget all the other warnings, here's Lucy

Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Sergey Lavrov, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, William Hague - they've all offered warnings. But as if these warnings were not enough, Ms Lucy has stepped in to issue her warning, too, wrote Hassan Al Zaabi in a satirical column in the UAE-based Al Emarat Al Youm.

"Egyptian belly dancer Lucy has voiced her great concerns over the imminent extinction of the belly-dancing career down the line, noting that most dancers in this day and age are unknown and that interest in the high art of dancing is waning," he wrote.

Good heavens - that makes complete sense. With all those unresolved complex political issues and all those settlement efforts going flat, let us find a way out of yet another outstanding Arab issue, he said sarcastically.

"Go ahead, Ms Lucy, the stage is yours. What would you recommend the Arab nation to do preserve oriental dance? Shall we carve out a protected area for dancers like those designed for rare birds and wildlife species? And ban laymen from approaching … and taking pictures?" Should we refer the extinction question to the National Geographic channel to send you experts to study how you live and sleep?

Or should we just have male and female dancers get married according to Sharia to guarantee their sustainability?

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk

translation@thenational.ae