x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Egypt's military is now in a rough spot

Egypt's Supreme Military Council, which has been running the country for months since the revolution, is increasingly in trouble, says an Arabic-language commentator. Other excerpts touch on Unesco in Jerusalem, Palestinian infighting and Syria's struggles

Egypt's Supreme Military Council, which has been running the country for months since the revolution, is increasingly in trouble, wrote Abdul Rahman al Rashid, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat.

The statement the military council released last week, warning Egyptian demonstrators for the first time that it "will not tolerate chaos" did not have a strong effect.

On the same day, the council was making concessions to the protesters, announcing arrests of former ministers and promising to let the current premier appoint ministers, the writer noted.

Certainly the situation is still fragile and complex, and hiccups are inevitable. But another reason the council is faltering is its inability to come up with a political plan for the country.

We are far from the Free Officers of the 1952 revolution; they were armed with a plan for the country, which kept them in power for decades, the writer went on. Then again, in this revolution the Egyptian military are "guardians", not catalysts.

"The only plan the military council has now is wait for parliamentary elections, which may not happen before the end of the year," the writer said, noting that the military leadership must have got involved early on in the planning of a political agenda that presents clear options for the Egyptian people.

Something suspect about Unesco's gaffe

"The mistake made by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), when it deemed occupied Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel - even though it tried later to come up with an excuse - is almost a crime," stated the Emirati newspaper Al Bayan in its editorial.

Reports on Sunday said Unesco denied that it had recognised the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on its website last week.

In a statement run by the pro-Palestinian Middle East Monitor website, Unesco reportedly said: "We would like to stress once again, contrary to claims recently reported, that there has been no change in the position of Unesco regarding the city of Jerusalem."

A "technical error", or a slip of the pen, may stem from a deep-seated bias that favours the Israeli occupier, Al Bayan said.

This may also have been a calculated manoeuvre to test the effect on the Arabs in the event of a potential change of the holy city's status.

Whatever the case, something feels suspicious in all of this, especially since it coincides with the Palestinian Authority's stated intention to ask for United Nations' recognition as a state, Al Bayan went on.

"It would have been more becoming of Unesco, whose job is to protect and promote heritage around the world, to denounce Israel's excavation projects inside the holy city," the newspaper concluded.

Palestinians can't manage to reconcile

Many question the outcome of the reconciliation process in which Fatah and Hamas are engaged, observed Mazen Hammad in an opinion piece for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

After many rounds of talks there are no positive results. The whole process has come to a standstill.

Palestinians know that there are several parties trying to abort the whole project, yet they reject excuses put forth by officials.

"The main reason preventing a deal, according to the PA, relates the appointment of the future prime minister," the writer explained. "While the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, said he has no other candidate than Salam Fayyad, Hamas said it is ready to deal with any person except him."

Mr Fayyad turns out to be the favourite person for the post not only for the PA but also for western countries, which exert greater pressure on Mr Abbas, including threats to cut off financial and economic aid to Ramallah, which would automatically affect the lives of hundreds of thousands.

Mr Abbas knew this before he met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, which raises the question: why did Mr Abbas begin this? Possibly he would like to tell Hamas that he is in a real crisis with both Israel and the US, hoping that Hamas would understand and make concessions. But Hamas thinks differently. "Anyone who wants to reach an agreement with Hamas needs to deal with it in revolutionaries' terms only."

Protests in Syria keep growing each week

As it enters its fifth month, the uprising in Syria shows that the regime has failed to introduce reforms, jeopardising further its already-dwindled credibility and image, columnist Areeb al Rantawi said in a commentary for the Jordanian newspaper Addustoor.

Loss of faith in the regime is revealed in the large numbers of people who rally every Friday. Popular participation is growing larger, especially in Hama, where the demonstrations are biggest in size and effect.

Another significant feature of the protests is the full involvement of intellectuals and artists, groups which hesitated at the outbreak of the protests. Last week brought their strong presence in streets. This will inevitably lead to even wider expansion of popular participation.

Security authorities will find it increasingly difficult to suppress protesters, while the opposition to the regime, both in Syria and abroad, will be growing even wider.

The costs of the uprising are expected to be high, because the chances to compromise which the regime had in the past are no longer available.

Syria is heading now towards a new phase of crisis. Some feared dramatic changes might happen with scenarios of more clashes leading to "the dissolution of the police state".

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi