x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Egypt's elites have all failed the country

Liberal elites and the Muslim Brotherhood alike have betrayed the principles of democracy, an Arab writer says. Other topics: the doomed peace talks, and Iran's price for Syrian peace.

Egypt's crisis has arisen because the secular elite has failed the real test of democracy

While many Egyptians have been demonstrating their readiness for democracy since 2011, the rhetoric and practice of the country's political elite leaves many question marks over their preparedness for it, Amr Hamzawy wrote in yesterday's edition of the Cairo-based newspaper Al Shorouk.

The elite has failed in building a national coalition supportive of the democratic transition since the January revolution, he said.

In the beginning there was the alignment between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military council, which led to the fabricated "constitutional amendments", ignoring all the necessary reforms from transitional justice to the restructuring of the country's police services.

There was also the continuous fear of referendums and elections among liberal and leftist forces, who sneered at the citizens' choices and failed to establish a strong relationship with the people.

Then there was the presidency of Mohammed Morsi, which initially gave some hope of fulfilling the democratic transformation. Yet under pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, Mr Morsi failed to be president for all Egyptians, and breached the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

Egypt under Mr Morsi also failed to deal with critical issues of national security, such as fighting terrorists in Sinai and managing the Nile basin crisis.

It also alienated many vital segments of society and failed to tackle human rights abuses.

Then came the terrible moment when liberal and leftist forces aligned with the military and brought it into politics to bring down the Brotherhood, he noted.

Certainly the Brotherhood's mistakes caused widespread resistance to it, as was shown in the June 30 protests.

But by abandoning the principles of democracy, and supporting the army's removal of an elected president, liberals and leftist figures have paved the way to the current stalemate.

They have left Egypt in a deep crisis, and left and liberal voices have lost any credibility to speak in the name of democracy and human rights, the writer said.

And then came the disaster of the Mubarak regime's political forces returning to the forefront, with their conventional alignment with security forces and networks of interest in the state, the media and business.

Now, the old regime's figures are systematically silencing people who defend democracy and reject the junta's meddling in politics.

Ironically, they are also settling scores with the pro-January- revolution figures who fell into the trap of post-June 30 arrangements. The political elite has failed the democratic test - a failure made worse by their deceitfulness in the realms of business and media. They have let down the people.

Israel dooms peace talks with Palestinians

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, got what he wanted from the peace talks before they even began, opined the columnist Jihad Al Khazen in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

"I dare say that peace with this murderous and occupier government is impossible," he said.

A new round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is due to begin "but they will fail and Mr Netanyahu will be able to say that he tried but Palestinians don't want peace," he added.

He will also get the support of the US Congress, where the Israeli lobby's influence means the majority serve Israel's interests at the expense of the US itself.

President Mahmoud Abbas acquiesced to talks following a US extortion operation that included a $4 billion (Dh14.7bn) grant to revive the economy in the West Bank coupled with threats to withhold US aid should he refuse to take part.

Since the Arab World is too occupied with the so-called Arab Spring, Mr Abbas had no choice but to accept.

President Barack Obama wants peace talks to succeed, "but it would be miracle and the president doesn't hold a magic wand," the writer said.

Under the present Israeli terms for negotiations, Palestinians are required to give up the remaining quarter of their rightful territories and this will never happen.

In any event, the 2,000 new homes on Palestinian land made Mr Netanyahu's intentions clear.

What is Iran's price for a detente in Syria?

Iran's role in Syria and Lebanon at present is the same as the one Syria played in Lebanon and towards Palestinian organisations, back in the days of president Hafez Al Assad, columnist Emile Khoury wrote in the Lebanese daily Annahar.

The Syrian regime played a dual role in the 15-year civil war in Lebanon, throwing its weight behind various factions at different times so as to ensure military equilibrium on the ground and to prevent one party from prevailing over the others.

It continued to play this role until secret negotiations between the US and the Syrian regime reached an agreement. That deal was to stop the fighting in Lebanon under Syrian patronage, which had allowed Damascus to exert control its smaller neighbour for over 30 years.

The writer asks what political price Iran would set in exchange for stopping the fighting in Syria and for resolving the issue of Hizbollah's weapons in Lebanon.

"This is the one question that remains unanswered for now. Perhaps the answer is actually awaiting the resumption of talks over Iran's nuclear power plans and the outcome of a likely visit by Hassan Rouhani, the new Iranian president, to Saudi Arabia," he said.


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk