x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Egypt may be thrown back into the army's lap

The presidency and the opposition are on a collision course that can only benefit the military, a commentator writes. Other topics: Syrian Islamism and Israel's challenges.

Adamancy of both sides in the Egyptian conflict may throw the country back into the army's lap

The Egyptian presidency and the opposition are on a collision course that may lead to the destruction of both, sending the country back to square one almost two years since the revolution, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in his front-page column at the weekend.

While neither President Mohammed Morsi nor the leaders of the opposition would want to see the country be ruled by the army again, the behaviour of both parties is only pushing that unlikely prospect into the realm of the possible.

Every other day, the opposition rallies tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square or outside the presidential palace, while the country's Islamists, who support Mr Morsi, rally similar numbers at the Cairo University square and - sometimes dangerously - outside the Presidential Palace.

Bloody clashes are constantly in the air, and when they happen, as they did last week, people die.

Out of concern about the aura of the presidential office or, perhaps, bracing against a real or perceived resurgence of old regime forces, Mr Morsi does not want to revoke a decree granting him sweeping powers, the editor said. Nor is he willing to allow the formation of a new constituent assembly to draft the country's new constitution, a key demand from protesters.

With the opposition equally determined not to budge an inch, a recipe for chaos is clearly laid out, the editor noted.

The so-called National Salvation Front, a group of political parties opposed to Mr Morsi's recent constitutional declaration, are calling for a "civil state", while the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood want a "religious, Islamic state".

"But if this obstinacy on both sides persists, there is a third outcome that looks more likely to materialise: the military state," the editor observed.

Throughout history, civil wars lasting for decades have erupted over the silliest incidents. Sadly, the likelihood of a civil war in Egypt, although still remote, cannot be ruled out, the editor wrote.

And if that happens, the intervention of the army will be inevitable. Note that army tanks were deployed last week to protect the presidential palace.

Given these delicate circumstances, it wouldn't have been a terrible idea if the opposition had responded positively to Mr Morsi's call for dialogue last week, the editor argued.

"It's not that we're in favour of the constitutional declaration here - in fact, we have called for it to be suspended. But we want everyone involved to make concessions for the sake of Egypt and its people.

"The president and his party have received the message, but Mr Morsi will still need help to climb back down from the perilous spot he put himself in."


Syria sees the rise of intellectual Islamism

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has validated the stereotype that Islamists do not make good on their promises of upholding the principles of democracy, civilian rule and devolution of power once they are in control, wrote Syrian commentator Akram Al Bunni in London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

The writer cited a series of Brotherhood moves, including changing the concept of a "civil state", calls for the implementation of Sharia and establishment of a Caliphate, and attempts to censor the media and monopolise the drafting of the constitution.

But that will not apply to the Islamists in Syria, the writer claimed. It is fair to say that there is a palpable presence of Islamists who genuinely and fiercely fight against tyranny and refuse to use Islam to reach power and establish influence.

That signals a new type of political and intellectual Islamism among young people who do not pledge allegiance to any ideological leadership.

These young people perceive its doctrine as upholding justice, plurality and political representation, away from the traditional concept of an Islamic state that endorses repression and authoritarian rule.

Syrian Islamists might be distinguished from others due to their bloody experience with the repressive regime of the Baath party and the country's proximity to Turkey, the writer said.


More challenges to security of Israel

Security threats challenging Israel today are more than the four stated by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote Palestinian academic Mohamed Al Azzar in the Dubai-based Al Bayan newspaper.

In his speech addressing the Institute for National Security Studies, Mr Netanyahu said that the four threats are: Iran's nuclear project, missiles coming from Gaza and Lebanon, cyber war and the vast weapons reserves being stockpiled in the region.

"I don't think that Mr Netanyahu and his group are naive to an extent that makes them unable to realise the challenges that threaten their country are many more than what they say in their conferences," the writer said.

Among them are the recent UN recognition of Palestine with non-member observer status, the rise of political Islam in the region, Russia's renewed ambition to compete with the U.S internationally, and the change in western public perception of the state of Israel, especially in Europe, he wrote.

Mr Netanyahu and his strategic consultants cannot ignore the internal challenges that face Israel.

"There are social and economic factors that indicate the weakness of the 'Israeli community', such as moral, financial and managerial corruption," he wrote.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk